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Friday, May 19, 2017

Protesters fear the worst at 'die-in' against American Health Care Act

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:59 PM

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As a thick miasma of Trump-Russia news clouded the national consciousness, a small group of demonstrators staged a "die-in" May 19 to draw focus to the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Around noon Friday, a dozen or so activists — many of whom belong to the Metairie and New Orleans chapters of national progressive group Indivisible — stood in front of Tulane Medical Center, some carrying signs shaped like tombstones. One woman was dressed as the Grim Reaper, with a cardboard scythe that said "Trumpcare." The funereal theme was meant to highlight potential loss of insurance coverage (and, by extension, life) related to the AHCA, which recently passed the House of Representatives.

The group urged bystanders to contact their senators, particularly Sen. Bill Cassidy, about the bill.

"Because [Cassidy] is a physician, he understands the importance of [the physician's oath] 'do no harm,'" Metairie resident and Indivisible member Tonya Jordan said. She said Louisianans have a unique opportunity to influence health care policy, as Cassidy has gone on record as objecting to some of the AHCA's less popular provisions and will help craft the Senate's revisions to the bill.

In the public health sphere, objections to the AHCA as written are varied but plentiful. Among other things, women's groups object to the suspension of Planned Parenthood's Medicaid reimbursements and the potential repeal of benefits standards established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. Children's health care providers are worried that cuts to Medicaid might endanger their institutions, because so many children receive Medicaid. People with disabilities could lose pre-existing condition protections and home and community care options. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections for an earlier version of the bill estimated older people and seniors would pay thousands of dollars more for insurance coverage in coverage under the AHCA. (House members did not wait for the CBO to score the bill they ultimately voted on.)

Nina Red came to the die-in to defend welfare of those seniors. She's retired, but she's more worried about her elderly sister, describing a situation in which her sister recently was forced to start paying $140 more per month for a medication after an insurance change.

"[I'm worried about] people who will not be able to afford [health care] anymore, especially people with cancer and people with life-threatening illnesses. ... [This bill is] a death," she said.

Nearby, Eileen Gleason said she was concerned about the loss of mental health care coverage, which is one of the "essential health benefits" the ACA mandated insurers cover in their policies. She said rate increases associated with mental health care coverage could affect her family.

"Would they do the same thing to someone with cancer?" she asked.

Around the demonstration, nurses in purple scrubs and doctors in white coats walked by. A street performer in a mock Civil War uniform biked past, and both an RTA bus for people with disabilities and a van that transports patrons from the VA parked next to the group. The colorful scene was a reminder of the patchwork of health care providers that services the community, including its most vulnerable; and how much hangs in the balance of health policy decisions.

"I believe very sincerely that health care is a birthright. ... We'll all help each other," William Schomp, a chemical process engineer, said. He held up a sign with Cassidy's phone number. "It's about humanity instead of selfishness."

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