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House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. Susan Walsh AP

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. Susan Walsh AP

By Barbara Anderson

banderson@fresnobee.com

Central San Joaquin Valley political and community leaders voiced disappointment to cautious relief at the president’s request that the American Health Care Act be pulled from consideration for a vote Friday.

Long-time Fresno Republican Michael Der Manouel said Friday “was a feeble attempt” to stop the federal health care system from bankrupting the country. “And it couldn’t be done.”

Der Manouel said it’s now “up to the Freedom Caucus to show their plan.” The conservative group of legislators killed the American Health Care Act, he said.

He did not blame President Donald Trump for the misstep. “Trump did everything he could do and his hands are clean. He tried. And the Republicans stopped him.”

But others in the Valley, who fear a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, were breathing a little easier with the scrapping of the health reform legislation, at least for now.

“As a parent of a disabled child who depends on the protections of the Affordable Care Act, I am cautiously optimistic that the repeal effort did not go through. My 5-year-old son uses a ventilator to breathe at night, and the American Health Care Act threatened to take away health insurance coverage for his ventilator,” said Jenny McLelland of Fresno.

The American Health Care Act also proposed cuts to Medicaid, which would disproportionately affect the disabled, McLelland said. “I would encourage all our Central Valley congressional representatives to work to protect and preserve the Affordable Care Act.”

Faith in the Valley, a faith-based community organization, has a month-long request in to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, for a meeting to discuss health reform. “We need concrete commitments from our Central Valley Congress members that they will not support any proposal which removes coverage from our most vulnerable Central Valley families,” Andy Levine said.

Nunes issued a statement Friday after the House recessed.

“For years we’ve tried to bring to the Central Valley better health care than the inadequate coverage provided by Obamacare and Medi-Cal. I’m tired of seeing Valley residents having to travel to distant big cities to see specialists. The status quo is unacceptable, so Valley Republicans will continue working to bring about better coverage for all Valley residents.”

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, issued a statement praising the president and House Speaker Paul Ryan for taking on health reform. “Our health care system is incredibly complex and the surrounding debate is politically charged. I commend both President Trump and Speaker Ryan for their willingness to undertake such a difficult issue.”

But Valadao said Congress needs to come together now to “enact legislation to stabilize our health care market, reduce federal spending, and ensure we are able to maintain access to health care for America’s most vulnerable populations. Any potential solution must be thoughtfully considered. I stand willing and ready to discuss, negotiate, and enact responsible policies for my constituents in California’s Central Valley.”

The office of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, said he would not be issuing a statement. The office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, did not respond by deadline to an email request for comment.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said he opposed the American Health Care Act. It was flawed policy that would have negatively affected hundreds of thousands of San Joaquin Valley residents, he said.

“Improvements need to be made to the Affordable Care Act but the AHCA was not the solution,” Costa said in an email. “The irresponsible cuts proposed by the AHCA would have caused hundreds of thousands of children, seniors, and women in the Valley to lose their health coverage. It is vital that we improve upon the gains we have made under the Affordable Care Act and make the necessary changes to improve coverage for all Americans.”

Costa said fixing the health care system will require bipartisanship. “I know how difficult it can be to stand up to your own party’s leadership and I commend my Republican colleagues who did so today.”

Daniel O. Jamison, an attorney at Dowling Aaron Inc. in Fresno, said taking time to craft a health law that is acceptable to Republicans and Democrats is wise.

“It is crucial that what is enacted this time around have broader support than Obamacare had and not be thrown out in four, six or eight years when the 51 percent majority shifts to the other party. Obamacare, like the House Republican’s Health Care Reform Act would have been, was adopted on a bare majority and opposed by nearly half the country.”

Jamison hopes Friday’s setback will not stop health reform. “Hopefully, this does not mean that healthcare reform drops from the agendas of the House and Senate.”

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter

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