Venice Family Clinic doctors condemn efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act — and so does a patient whose life it saved

By Gary Walker

Cancer survivor Kenrick Bascom (left) and Dr. Jay Lee are going to bat for Obamacare
Photo by Maria Martin

Before the U.S. Senate decides whether to reverse significant provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, perhaps they should hear Kenrick Bascom’s story.

Bascom, a Venice resident, was a financial services professional with U.S. Bank until downsizing cost him his job — and health insurance — at the start of the Great Recession in 2007. Unable to obtain insurance on his own, he visited the nonprofit Venice Family Clinic on Rose Avenue after he began experiencing pain in his abdomen.

The diagnosis: kidney cancer. A possible death sentence.

But because the clinic enrolled him in Covered California, the state’s health care exchange under the Affordable Car Act, Bascom was able to have a life-saving surgery in 2014 at Keck Medical Center of USC.

“Without the assistance of the doctors at Venice Family Clinic and the Affordable Care Act, I would not be alive today,” Bascom, 62, told The Argonaut just before the Senate majority leaders delayed the ACA repeal-and-replace vote until after the July 4 recess.

Dr. Jay Lee, chief medical officer for Venice Family Clinic, had Bascom and patients like him in mind last week when he traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in a “white coat” press conference in which dozens of physicians spoke out against proposed cuts to Medi-Cal, the state version of Medicaid.

“Together with America’s health care professionals, I rise up to oppose the mean-spirited and cruel effort by congressional Republicans to take away health coverage from 23 million Americans — my patients, your neighbors,” Lee said. “I declare that if all people are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights — among these, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — we hold this truth to be self-evident: Trumpcare lacks heart and must be stopped.”

The Venice Family Clinic serves about 25,000 low-income or indigent patients each year, and according to the clinic as many as 40% of them — 10,000 people — are at risk of losing their health insurance under the Senate proposal.

By connecting Bascom to health insurance, Venice Family Clinic primary care physician Dr. Matthew Dunn was able to refer him to a medical imaging center in Marina del Rey, which conducted the ultrasound that revealed his cancer.

Almost two years after having his kidney removed, Bascom is cancer-free but still wonders what he would have done without access to health insurance.

“My surgeon told me that the cancer would have metastasized to other parts of my body eventually. I don’t know what other options I would have had without the Affordable Care Act,” Bascom said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 28.5 million non-elderly Americans did not have health insurance as of late 2015 — a decrease of 13 million people since 2013.

On Monday the Congressional Budget Office reported that the current Republican proposal could leave an additional 22 million Americans without health insurance and raise costs for sicker and poorer people.

Lee said that before the Affordable Care Act, 46 million Americans could not afford health insurance and could not afford to pay for health care out-of-pocket, yet they also could not qualify for Medicaid.

Venice Family Clinic Executive Director Elizabeth Benson Forer noted that basic services such as maternity care would be eliminated under the Republican proposal.

“The health care bill introduced by the Senate Republican work group is no better than the one passed by House Republicans last month. It too would slash Medicaid coverage for millions of poor people, weaken insurance price controls for older Americans, and cut key consumer protections, including coverage of preexisting conditions and bans on annual and lifetime limits on benefits,” Benson Forer said. “It’s a cruel and backward bill that would destabilize the entire health care system.”

If given the opportunity, Bascom would tell lawmakers to “consider the impact this will have on millions of people and not just on their constituents.”

Lee believes health care should rise above partisan politics or campaign promises.

“This is not a political issue of right or left. This a human issue of right or wrong, and repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is morally wrong. Health is the keystone of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and health coverage is the key that unlocks the health care system. Every human being deserves to have a copy of that key. No human deserves to die because they don’t,” Lee said at the Capitol.

“Don’t mess with my patients,” he added. “Trust me, I’m a doctor.”