By Daniela Alvarez
Whichever candidate emerges victorious after election day — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — the outcome will have a significant impact on the state of health care for many residents of Long Beach.
And while the city leans Democrat, many say President Obama’s signature health plan is in need of fixing.
“Obamacare [is] great because it extended the amount of time I could stay on my mom’s health insurance,” said Long Beach resident Amanda Mayberry. “However, I am turning 26 this year and will be aging out of her insurance plan. So now I’m worried, which probably says a lot about how I feel about the health care system.”
According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in July, registered voters across the country ranked healthcare as being fourth on their list of top issues this year.
Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as it’s officially known, passed in 2012. Thanks to the ACA, 80 percent of Long Beach residents were able to successfully enroll in health coverage in 2014.
Still, the program has remained a bitterly partisan issue since its passage. Democrats and Republicans are almost evenly divided when it comes to the ACA, according to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll conducted in October.
Both Clinton and Trump have staked out near polar opposite positions when it comes to health insurance and healthcare reform.
Under Trump’s plan, Obamacare would be repealed and the federal government would not mandate coverage. His plan, however, would leave an estimated 20 million people uninsured, according to a report by Rand Corp.
On the other side, Clinton proposes expanding Obamacare by $40 billion over the next 10 years to ensure that more people — including undocumented immigrants — have access to health coverage.
During the last presidential debate on Oct. 9, Clinton said she wants to provide “additional help to small businesses to be able to afford providing health insurance to employees,” while keeping features of Obamacare that work and fixing the ones that don’t. Clinton adopted Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposals for healthcare reform by expressing her support earlier this year for taxpayer-funded health insurance.
Trump called Obamacare “a disaster,” and plans to eliminate “state lines,” meaning people can buy insurance across states, something that already exists under Obamacare.
Both Clinton and Trump’s proposals are outlined by The Commonwealth Fund, which also provides a breakdown of the economic impact of their plans.
The divisions leave many here uncertain about the large numbers of people who remain uninsured.
According to the 2013 Community Health Assessment by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 30 percent of those at or below the federal poverty level lack health insurance. Overall, 20 percent of Long Beach residents are uninsured, with the Hispanic/Latino community reporting higher percentages.
Joanna Diaz of the Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization says that comprehensive immigration reform is the first step in providing accessible healthcare to undocumented immigrants.
“The overwhelming need for immigration reform is even more pressing given the current political climate,” said Diaz. “Only then will we be able to get the most rights and benefits for those who are currently undocumented.”
Insurance providers, meanwhile, say they are bracing for any possible changes.
“A lot of working families will be impacted if Obamacare doesn’t continue because they will lose coverage or see higher premiums,” said Adriana Bowerman, manager of Community Engagement at Molina Healthcare, based in Long Beach.
Molina has accommodated those who qualify for coverage under the ACA through Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program) and Medicare. If there is a significant change in the healthcare system, like the repeal of the ACA or the expected rise of healthcare costs, Molina says it is prepared for the changes.
Molina is “committed to remaining in the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act regardless of who is elected as the next president of the United States,” said Molina President Deborah Miller in a prepared statement.
Molina’s “mission [is] to provide healthcare to low-income persons receiving government assistance.” Through this mission, Molina “is able to offer continuity of coverage and care for our Medicaid members who may gain and lose eligibility due to changes in income or health status,” said Miller.
For Mayberry, improving on the current healthcare system is important not just for her, but for the city. “There are a lot of homeless people and veterans in Long Beach, so I think an improved health care system can do some good for [us here].”