Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions, Doctors, Nurses from 20 States Arrested Occupying Senators’ DC Offices Protesting ACA Repeal
Capitol Hill Protest Comes During #MedicaidNotMillionaires National Day of Action with More Than 40 Events in 16 States Highlighting How Repeal Bill Cuts Medicaid to Pay for Tax Breaks for the Wealthy and Big Corporations
Washington, D.C. – As the Senate continues to work on its now-delayed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and end to Medicaid as we know it, patients with pre-existing conditions, people living with HIV and people impacted by Medicaid cuts, joined by doctors, nurses and medical students, occupied key Senate offices Wednesday. Waves of constituents who will die if the Senate bill is passed put their bodies on the line today, with 40 being arrested as they blocked the entrances to the Capitol Hill offices of Senators Cotton (AR), Toomey (PA), Gardner (CO), Murkowski (AK), Rubio (FL), Portman (OH).
“If this bill passes, I will die,” said Kati MacFarland from Arkansas. “I’m a 26-year-old student living with incurable pre-existing conditions that have put me in a wheelchair, now with a feeding tube and a port for my medicines. I’m a photographer, a violinist, a vocalist, and active in my school and church. With the health care I have now, I can survive and be a doctor some day. I can live my life and have a family and be productive. If Senator Cotton votes to dismantle Medicaid as a right and undo expansion, then he will have voted to crush my dreams.”
“As one of the largest AIDS service providers in America, we have struggled for more than thirty years with the worst history pandemic in history,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “Finally, thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, we see the real possibility of ending AIDS across the country within this decade. We are not going to go back to the days when all we could do was hold our friends on our arms as they died.”
The Senate repeal bill closely mirrors the House repeal bill. It takes coverage away from 22 million people; weakens coverage and consumer protections for everyone with private insurance; eliminates Medicaid expansion; and ends Medicaid’s guarantee of coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities who had Medicaid even before the Affordable Care Act. Those cuts are being made in order to pay for $541 billion in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. Changes will be made during the July 4th recess, but so far, no republican senators are drawing lines in the sand that Medicaid be protected as an entitlement and expansion continued, that rates will go down for anyone but the young and healthy, or that minimum benefits and true protections for pre-existing conditions will be retained.
The event in Washington, D.C., was led by the Center for Popular Democracy, and Housing Works, the nation’s largest community-based AIDS service organization. The action happens on the same day as a national #MedicaidNotMillionaires Day of Action led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) partners across the country that includes more than 40 events in 16 states. The protestors called on Republican senators to reject proposals that will gut life-saving Medicaid for 74 million working families, children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations.
Highlights from events across the country include:
- A rally at Sen. Flake’s Tucson office;
- Die-in at Sen. Rubio’s Orlando office;
- A health care town hall in Charlotte; and
- An event outside Sen. Capito’s Charlestown office.
“It’s no wonder Senate Republicans wanted to hide this bill from the American people as long as possible. It would strip health care from millions of Americans and end Medicaid as we know it to pay for big tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations,” said Ethan Rome and Margarida Jorge, co-directors of Health Care for America Now. “People across the country are standing up and rejecting this bill. Senate Republicans who want to keep their jobs should listen to the vast majority of their constituents.”
Ending Medicaid expansion alone would take health care away from up to 11 million Americans, but the Senate isn’t stopping there. The Senate bill radically restructures the federal funding for the basic Medicaid program to starve it over the years, forcing eligibility and benefit cuts, creating huge burdens for state budgets, closing hospitals and costing millions of health care jobs. Its permanent cuts are even deeper than in the House bill and get larger after the CBO score’s 10-year budget window.
Medicaid provides coverage to one in five Americans, including 30 million children. It pays for half the births in the United States, 75% of all family planning services, 64% of nursing home care, and 30% of all care for people with disabilities. Nearly 2 million veterans get health care through Medicaid. Medicaid also costs far less per beneficiary than either Medicare or private health insurance, and itscosts have been rising more slowly than private insurance.
The Republican bill’s radical changes to Medicaid funding will cripple states facing health emergencies like the opioid crisis. It will be up to each state alone to manage health care emergencies without additional support from the federal government. “Any modest Senate adjustments during recess that slow Medicaid cuts, or set up temporary funding pots for states to briefly lessen the blow to seniors, people with disabilities and people struggling with opioids should be seen for what they are: window dressing for a ‘die later’ strategy to get Republicans past the 2020 election window,” said Kathy Ottersten, who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and had a traumatic brain injury as the result of an assault.
And the Senate is making these cuts to pay for tax breaks for insurance and prescription drug companies, breaks which are particularly egregious given rising profits over the past several years. The eight biggest insurance companies increased profits by one-third from 2011 to 2015, rising from $19.1 billion to $25.3 billion. The average cost of brand name drugs widely used by older Americans for chronic conditions more than tripled between 2006 and 2015, climbing from $1,788 to $5,897 according to a recent report from AARP.
Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is the national grassroots coalition that ran a $60 million five-and-a-half year campaign from 2008-2013 to pass, protect, and promote the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and protect Medicare and Medicaid. HCAN has come back together to fight the Republicans’ all-out effort to take away America’s health care and put people at the mercy of the health insurance companies again.