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Parents Of Sick Children Fight Senate Healthcare Bill

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Doctors, patients, and the parents of sick children gathered at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco and Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto to fight back against the U.S. Senate's healthcare bill.

If this Senate bill passes, critics say, millions of the disabled, elderly, and children here could end up without coverage.

Parent Jennie Briend's 5-year-old son has half of a heart, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Briend's son Tyler racked up a $2 million healthcare bill by the time he was one-month-old. She says without Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, they would lose everything, including Tyler.

"If that was removed for us it would be a matter of life and death for us..." Briend said.

13.5 million Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal and 5.4 million of those enrollees are children.

Before the Affordable Care Act passed, 9.9 million Californians were eligible for Medicaid. That's an increase of more than 3 million people in three years.

San Francisco GOP Chairman Jason Clark says California cannot afford its current Medicaid bill.

"Under Obamacare, Medicare costs spiral upwards and upwards which leads to the cost problem we have right now," Clark said.

"Who's going to pay for it? Are we going to levy a tax on the poor and middle class? I think the answer is no," Clark said.

Medicaid cost the U.S. $574.2 billion last year, California made up $81.9 billion of that.

But proponents argue cutting Medicaid now, means a bigger bill later.

Dr. Lisa Chamberlain, a pediatrics doctor at Packard Children's Hospital argues, "If you don't have that preventive care, you end up in the emergency room and that is a huge bill."

California lawmakers already have a contingency plan in the works.

They're considering a single payer system. Republicans say that would be a disaster for the state budget.

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