NPR Hypes How California Conservatives 'Benefited' From ObamaCare

Wednesday's All Things Considered on NPR touted how a conservative portion of California supposedly needs ObamaCare to stay, despite the personal opposition of the people there. Robert Siegel played up that "a lot of people there have benefited from a law Republicans are trying to roll back — the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare." April Dembosky of local affiliate KQED spotlighted how "clinics in the northeast corner of the state are lobbying local officials to take an unpopular position in this conservative land: defend ObamaCare."

Siegel led into Dembosky's report by noting that "people think of California as liberal. But in the northeast corner of the state, up to seventy percent of people voted for Donald Trump in the last election." He continued with his claim about ObamaCare. The correspondent first detailed how "Modoc County is roughly the size of Connecticut, and it only has one stoplight. Greta Elliott runs a tiny health clinic on the edge of the national forest, and she says this area is beyond rural. It's frontier."

Dembosky continued by outlining that "there's a frontier mentality, too. People take care of each other, and they take care of themselves. They don't like being told what to do. Being forced to buy insurance made ObamaCare a dirty word." She also pointed out that "overall, the law helped 25,000 people in far northern California buy plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace; and it helped three times as many people enroll in Medicaid."

The public radio journalist turned to Dean Germano, the head of a local health center, who asserted that "the data shows it's the rural communities that have greatly benefited from the Medicaid expansion. That's the irony." Germano is among those "lobbying local officials to take an unpopular position in this conservative land: defend ObamaCare." The health official was also apparently "shocked when the right-leaning Shasta County Board of Supervisors took it on," as the correspondent put it.

Dembosky then highlighted that "one of the supervisors, David Kehoe, asked the local Republican congressman to reject the repeal and replace bill, because it would hurt local people." Kehoe stated, "We have an obligation to say something. And if it may be mildly offensive from a political standpoint for some — well, we're not going to be intimidated by politics."

The reporter later zeroed in on how local health clinics "struggled to sign people up" for Medicaid, as lower-income people in the area "feel like it's a handout," according to Carol Morris, who works as an enrollment counselor. The correspondent noted that "one way she [Morris] gets around this: they don't call it Medicaid. Instead, they promote the name of the insurer that manages Medicaid here."

Dembosky closed out her segment by playing up that "Morris has seen the difference ObamaCare has made. She's seen patients get treatment for diabetes, breast cancer, and knee surgery that they otherwise wouldn't have gotten. The patients won't fight for ObamaCare, but Morris says that's why the county has to."

It should be pointed out that Siegel revealed after the report that it was "part of a reporting partnership of NPR, KQED, and Kaiser Health News." The third outlet is adminstered by the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation, which has a history of supprting ObamaCare.

The full transcript of April Demobsky's report, which aired on NPR's All Things Considered on July 5, 2017:

ROBERT SIEGEL: People think of California as liberal. But in the northeast corner of the state, up to seventy percent of people voted for Donald Trump in the last election. And yet, a lot of people there have benefited from a law Republicans are trying to roll back — the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.

KQED's April Dembosky reports.

APRIL DEMBOSKY: Modoc County is roughly the size of Connecticut, and it only has one stoplight. Greta Elliott runs a tiny health clinic on the edge of the national forest, and she says this area is beyond rural. It's frontier.

GRETA ELLIOTT, CANBY FAMILY PRACTICE CLINIC: There are more cows in Modoc than there are people.

DEMBOSKY: There's a frontier mentality, too. People take care of each other, and they take care of themselves. They don't like being told what to do. Being forced to buy insurance made ObamaCare a dirty word. Even Elliott, the head of a health clinic, decided against buying coverage for herself.

ELLIOTT: It's too expensive. I choose to put my money back into paying the bills of the whole family.

DEMBOSKY: Overall, the law helped 25,000 people in far northern California buy plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace; and it helped three times as many people enroll in Medicaid.

Dean Germano is head of the Shasta Community Health Center.

DEAN GERMANO, SHASTA COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER: The data shows it's the rural communities that have greatly benefited from the Medicaid expansion. That's the irony.

DEMBOSKY: Now, clinics in the northeast corner of the state are lobbying local officials to take an unpopular position in this conservative land: defend ObamaCare. Germano was shocked when the right-leaning Shasta County Board of Supervisors took it on.

GERMANO: And we thought, whoa! That is really bold.

DEMBOSKY: One of the supervisors, David Kehoe, asked the local Republican congressman to reject the repeal and replace bill, because it would hurt local people.

DAVID KEHOE, SHASTA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: We have an obligation to say something. And if it may be mildly offensive from a political standpoint for some — well, we're not going to be intimidated by politics.

DEMBOSKY: But the congressman, Doug LaMalfa, still voted in favor of dismantling ObamaCare. Clinic staff met with his staff, and were told the people calling the congressman were middle-income folks complaining about expensive premiums. But lower-income folks, who gained Medicaid, didn't call. In fact, clinics struggled to sign people up, says enrollment counselor Carol Morris.

CAROL MORRIS, ENROLLMENT COUNSELOR, MOUNTAIN VALLEY HEALTH CENTERS: They feel like it's a handout, and they don't — they're too proud. They don't want to.

DEMBOSKY: One way she gets around this: they don't call it Medicaid. Instead, they promote the name of the insurer that manages Medicaid here.

MORRIS: It feels like it's more of an insurance. It's just like a laminated — and it's got your number. It just looks exactly like an insurance card.

DEMBOSKY: Patient Kay Roope knew she had Medicaid, and she liked it.

KAY ROOPE: It did me good. They did good.

DEMBOSKY: Now, she has a plan through the ObamaCare marketplace; and she likes that, too.

ROOPE: It's okay, because I'm at the doctor's at least once a month.

DEMBOSKY: But when I ask her what she thinks of ObamaCare overall—

ROOPE: I don't like ObamaCare.

DEMBOSKY: You don't like ObamaCare.

ROOPE: No!

DEMBOSKY: How come?

ROOPE: Because of Obama himself (laughs). I rest my case (laughs).

DEMBOSKY: The contradictions and the confusion are common, says enrollment counselor Carol Morris.

MORRIS: People just don't understand the different names. But it's — I mean, of course, it's the same thing.

DEMBOSKY: Morris has seen the difference ObamaCare has made. She's seen patients get treatment for diabetes, breast cancer, and knee surgery that they otherwise wouldn't have gotten. The patients won't fight for ObamaCare, but Morris says that's why the county has to. For NPR News, I'm April Dembosky.

SIEGEL: That story is part of a reporting partnership of NPR, KQED, and Kaiser Health News.


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