Stephen W. Schilling,

Stephen W. Schilling,

It’s hard for the average American to keep up with the noise coming out of Washington on health care: After vowing for years to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the House in May passed the American Health Care Act, then the Senate introduced the Better Care Reconciliation Act and, on Thursday, slapped a new coat of paint on the legislation in hopes of persuading a core group of Republicans to vote for it.

But it’ll take more than “tinkering around the edges,” as Republican Sen. Susan Collins put it, to secure support for this brutal, heartless assault on the health care of millions of Americans.

Clinica Sierra Vista serves 150,000 patients in Kern, Fresno and Inyo counties, the vast core of California, which is among the most medically underserved in the nation. We see farmworkers, retail clerks, tradespeople, single-parent families, students, business owners – the faces of our community, people long left out of the health-care marketplace.

But since the implementation of the Medicaid expansion in California, Clinica Sierra Vista has seen a 26 percent increase in the number of patients we serve with health-care coverage.

This includes a 38 percent increase in Medicaid beneficiaries, who, for the first time, have access to comprehensive primary care and preventive care in their local community.

In addition to access to quality medical, dental and behavioral health services, our patients now have peace of mind in knowing that they will get the care they need. Our health organization also employ more than 1,000 people.

Against that backdrop of success, Republicans pushing for the legislation face two terribly inconvenient truths: A new poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 61 percent of Americans oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, a sharp increase in dissatisfaction since June. 

The other problem for proponents of this legislation? Forget what you’ve heard: The Affordable Care Act is not a disaster.

Despite Republican efforts to destabilize insurance markets and problems with access in some parts of the country, health insurers are seeing record marketplace earnings, and Covered California is flourishing – in enrollment, competition and relatively stable pricing.

How do we keep it that way? By pursuing a bipartisan solution to the elements of the Affordable Care Act that need to be revised. A program as ambitious and far-reaching as the 2010 Affordable Care Act requires constant oversight as conditions change and opportunities and challenges present themselves. That’s to be expected.

Bottom line: There’s no going back.

Any positive, progressive social movement to improve the lives of millions of people in this country only gains momentum as time goes on.

 We at Clinica Sierra Vista have always believed health care to be a right, not a privilege, and after nearly a decade of the Affordable Care Act, most of America agrees.

Stephen W. Schilling is chief executive officer of Clinica Sierra Vista, a Bakersfield-based non-profit corporation that serves a geographically dispersed, low-moderate-fixed income, ethnically diverse, frontier-rural-urban-migrant-homeless patient population. It has grown to be one of the largest comprehensive migrant/community health center systems in the state, serving a huge patient population in Kern, Fresno and Inyo counties.