Californians rally to keep Obamacare coverage, oppose Trump changes

About 200 people gathered on the steps of LA County-USC hospital and pledged to do their part to preserve access to affordable health care.
About 200 people gathered on the steps of LA County-USC hospital and pledged to do their part to preserve access to affordable health care.
Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

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Amid uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act, about 200 people gathered in Los Angeles Tuesday to show their support for the federal health care law and the benefits extended to millions of Californians.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to repeal and replace the law, also known as Obamacare. At the rally fronting the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said he would work to stop Trump's  plan.

"California has taken a lead in health care and we will take a lead to make sure that the federal government understands that we cannot let this happen," Hernandez said.

The crowd, comprised of health care workers, nurses, advocates and patients, chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, attacks on health care have got to go." They waved signs reading "#Fight4Health" and "Healthcare is a human right."

It's unclear what will happen to Obamacare once Trump takes office, but California has a lot at stake. Under the Affordable Care Act, the state expanded Medi-Cal coverage to about 3.5 million poor adults. More than 1 million people bought health insurance, most with federal subsidies, through the Covered California exchange.

During the event, Dr. Mitch Katz, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said he has witnessed the benefits of the expanded coverage in the outpatient clinic where he works. He described patients who had prescriptions for diabetes and hypertension medications but who couldn't afford to fill them until they got health insurance through Obamacare.

"We got the chance under [the Affordable Care Act] to give people back their medicines, to give people the chance to live healthy lives, and we're not giving that up," he said.

Trump has provided a few details of what he envisions under an Obamacare makeover, including a heavier reliance on health savings accounts to pay for medical expenses. House Speaker Paul Ryan has a fuller plan that would not require Americans to buy insurance but would offer tax credits to help people to buy coverage.

Some aspects of Ryan's plan will sound familiar: for example, he proposes to keep the Obamacare provision that prevents people from being dropped from health plans because of pre-existing conditions.

The move to overhaul the law comes as those covered in California under Obamacare face premiums that will jump 13.2 percent on average next year. The sharp increase played a part in the election debates between Trump and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.