Royce Constituents Demand Answers on Healthcare
On Thursday, over 100 residents of California’s 39th Congressional District gathered outside Congressman Ed Royce’s Brea office urging him to oppose the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the same day it was scheduled for a vote in the US House of Representatives. Attendees began by reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem. After a brief address on the consequences of passing the AHCA by Dr. Shana Charles, a health sciences professor at Cal State Fullerton, attendees walked the vicinity carrying 2,400 paper cranes strung along fishing line. The symbolic display called attention to the 24 million Americans who stand to lose their health insurance under the proposal. Each crane stood for 10,000 Americans, evoking folklore connecting origami cranes with the fulfillment of wishes.
Ultimately, the Thursday vote was canceled despite extensive negotiations amongst Republican leadership, then fast-tracked for Friday. Royce has still not publicly indicated any preference toward voting for or against the Act, despite repeated inquiries from constituents and media outlets. Indivisible CA D-39 continues to call for Royce to vote against the Act.
Thursday was the seven-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Seven years ago, millions of Americans sighed in relief as they gained access to affordable coverage and looked on with cautious optimism for continuing improvements to their country’s healthcare system. Today, 24 million Americans — more than the number that gained coverage under the ACA — stand to lose their insurance over the next eight years. The elderly, the sick, and the poor are expected to be hit hardest, as the AHCA would undo the framework of consumer and patient protections that made health insurance affordable and accessible for those who need it most.
The proposed Republican healthcare bill would be devastating to the 39th district. 72,000 residents (29,100 in ACA Marketplaces and 42,900 in ACA Medicaid expansion) are projected to be affected. The district’s uninsured rate has dropped from 17.1% to 7.4% since the ACA was implemented, one of the most significant declines in the nation. The AHCA would raise premiums, strip coverage from millions, and cut taxes for Insurance CEOs and the wealthiest Americans.
Several attendees cited their personal experiences with the ACA in support of their case. Catrice Allen was paying a $1200 premium for coverage for herself and her two children, receiving only $200 in assistance from her employer, until she signed up for a policy for $650 through the ACA exchange. Viviana Martinez, a therapist, recalled her mother securing insurance through an emergency enrollment provision in the ACA mere weeks before sustaining a hand injury that would have otherwise incurred great cost to the family. Dr. Charles expressed concern about the provision ensuring access to insurance for those with pre-existing conditions. “As of today, that’s on the chopping block,” despite assurances by AHCA proponents that this protection would remain intact. Her daughter Lilianna, who suffers from hypothyroidism, voiced her apprehension that she might have trouble procuring insurance as an adult.
Indivisible CA D-39 continues to call for Ed Royce to vote against the AHCA, and to host an in-person town hall and hear the concerns of his constituents on healthcare and other issues. The Congressman must explain his near-perfect record of voting in accordance with the Trump agenda, which CA-39 voters decisively rejected on election day (Hillary Clinton carried the district). In recent weeks, Royce has hosted telephone town halls, with little notice to few individuals, limited to hand-picked, pre-screened questions. Indivisible CA D-39 does not believe that these telephone town halls reflect the transparency and participatory spirit that American democracy calls for, and that an in-person town hall open to the public would provide. We remain convinced that if Congressman Royce does not hear our concerns, then he is ill-equipped to represent our interests.
Update 12:56 PM PST: President pulls bill to repeal the ACA after not enough votes in the House.