Protesters rise up to block health care repeal

It is clear that people in the United States will not tolerate changes that drive millions of more people off of health insurance.

SOURCEPopular Resistance
Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite.

With the September 30 deadline for the budget reconciliation process looming, Senate Republicans attempted once again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Dr. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana submitted legislation last week that would end the Medicaid expansion, cut federal funds for Medicaid and allow states to decide that insurers could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. States would also no longer have to require that insurers cover essential benefits, as defined in the ACA.

The bill seemed dead by the end of last week when Senator John McCain announced that he would vote against it. But Senators Graham and Cassidy went into high gear over the weekend to add extra funding for states like Alaska, Maine and Arizona to encourage their support. Activists throughout the country also geared up to fight back.

By early Monday morning, hundreds of people, including many disability rights activists filled the halls outside the Senate Finance Committee room to protest a hearing on the bill scheduled by Graham and Cassidy.

Reporter Jeff Stein took video of the line at 7 am. The hearing was scheduled for 2 pm.

If health care defenders had their way, that hearing would not even take place. As the line grew, police formed a human chain around the attendees.

“Protesters in wheelchairs interrupted Tuesday’s hearing on the GOP’s health care bill – loudly screaming, “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” The noisy protests forced Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch to recess the hearing just moments after it began. Hatch told the protesters, “If you want a hearing you better shut up!” His complaint was to no avail as the protests continued. So Hatch then shut the hearing down, saying it would resume when order was restored. The protesters were removed from the hearing room one by one.”

By the end of the afternoon, almost 200 people were arrested. ABC News reported:

“Capitol Police officers struggled to remove people, with some sliding out of their wheelchairs and onto the floor. Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for Capitol Police, said in a statement 181 protesters were arrested Monday afternoon. ‘Fifteen demonstrators were arrested and charged with disruption of Congress,’ Malecki said, adding, ’143 individuals were arrested after refusing to cease and desist with their unlawful demonstration activities in the hallway. Twenty-three individuals were charged with crowding, obstructing, or incommoding and resisting arrest.’”

Maine Senator Susan Collins announced her opposition to the bill, joining Senators John McCain and Rand Paul of Wisconsin. Protests against the bill took place elsewhere around the country. In Columbia, South Carolina, dozens of ‘zombie brides’ visited Senator Graham’s office to oppose the bill.

All in all, it is clear that people in the United States will not tolerate changes that drive millions of more people off of health insurance. And with support for National Improved Medicare for All growing, it is time to turn that energy towards making a universal publicly-financed high quality and comprehensive health care system a reality in our nation.


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