Graham-Cassidy Is An Act of Anti-California Aggression

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

It’s not health care policy. It’s revenge.

U.S. Senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy have hardly hidden one big impact of their Obamacare repeal bill: that it punishes California. To the contrary, they’ve used the anti-California nature of the bill as a talking point.

Cassidy has suggested that California is getting too much revenue from the Affordable Care Act. Graham has echoed that: “I like Massachusetts, I like Maryland, I like New York, I like California, but I don’t like them that much to give them a bunch of money that the rest of us won’t get. Now, if you live in Massachusetts, you don’t get twice the Social Security or 50 percent more than if you live in Pennsylvania. Now how can this happen? Obamacare, for whatever reason, favors four blue states against the rest of us.”

This is deliberate dishonesty. California has no special deal under Obamacare.. The state chose to expand Medicaid (what we call Medi-Cal); such an expansion was available to every state. The problem is that other states chose not to expand.

The Graham-Cassidy bill fixes that by turning Medicaid into a block grant, and cutting the total amount of money. Effectively, the goal is to take money from California – and other big blue states like New York and Massachusetts – and give it to red states that didn’t fund Medicaid.

This sort of revenge-based bill won’t just hurt poorer Californians and the state budget. It ratchets up the conflict between our state and a federal government.

And it shows the GOP in Congress and the White House treating Californians not as Americans, but as Californians. Yes, California is fighting back hard. But how much fighting can the California-U.S. relationship bear before the rift gets beyond healing?

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