Paid activists? No.
Nurses, grandparents, parents of children with serious health diagnoses, a woman with a brain tumor, Catholic sisters, the unemployed, a 20 something who wouldn't otherwise have healthcare insurance, human services agency staff... These are just some of the people who attended rallies to support the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties of northeast Pennsylvania, the past two consecutive weekends. The rallies were organized by respective county chapters of Action Together Northeastern PA, in conjunction with Our Revolution.
Don't repeal without a replacement that works for everyone.
That's the message hundreds of demonstrators wanted to ensure their elected representatives take back to Washington, D.C., and to President Trump. In this case, we're talking about Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA 10th District), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA 11th District), and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA 17th District).
Are they just crazy lefties? No.
I couldn't possibly know everyone's political affiliation there. I do know that I saw quite a few people there who I know personally as being hard working, tax paying people. I also ran into some people who can't work because of chronic health conditions. People were respectful, peaceful, and civic minded. They took time away from their weekends to show up, because they care - not just about themselves, about everyone. Basically, they are my neighbors.
My friend, Pamela Zotynia, shared her family's story at the rally in Luzerne County yesterday. To say her story is 'rare' would be an exaggeration. After all, 1 in 5 Americans have a disability. In her son's case, he is one of 6.5 millions of Americans with an intellectual disability. The math would get too complicated if I calculated it for all the other serious diagnoses he has. Shout out to my artist friend Robert!
Another friend, April Holgate was also one of the speakers at yesterday's event on the steps of the Luzerne County Courthouse. This is the county where I live.
I'm April Holgate with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. We are a healthcare consumer driven organization that works toward high quality, affordable and equitable coverage options for all Pennsylvanians. We've helped folks all across the Commonwealth gain coverage - Democrats, Republicans, Independents and everyone in between - small business owners, families and young adults starting off in the world.
April went on to provide eye opening statistics about Pennsylvania and the residents of this county.
- 1.1 million individuals and families in Pennsylvania have gained health insurance coverage since the passage of the ACA and millions more benefit from consumer protections such as bans on lifetime limits on coverage and discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions.
- In the Wilkes Barre area, 62,373 would lose that coverage if the ACA was repealed. This means more financial uncertainty, delayed care, and constant worry about what happens when sickness strikes. When people lose insurance, it decreases their ability to work, provide for their families or go to school. It weakens our community.
- Nearly half of Pennsylvania's population has a pre-existing condition. 4.6 million previously had to worry about facing an annual or lifetime limit on care, and women paid more for insurance than men. These consumer protections are part of the bedrock of the Affordable Care Act. Here in the Wilkes Barre area, 481,235 would lose one or more of these protections with the repeal of the ACA.
- Moreover, seniors pay less now for prescription drugs by avoiding the Medicare donut hole, which previously made them choose between their medications and food. 149,841 seniors here in the Wilkes Barre area would once again be forced to struggle.
- Block grants and per capita caps would ruin a program that has worked successfully to the benefit of millions for over 50 uninterrupted years. Here in Pennsylvania, 2.8 million benefit from Medicaid, over half of those are children.
- In Pennsylvania we would lose the 137,000 jobs the ACA created, and see our gross state product decrease by 76.46 billion by 2023.
- Here in Luzerne County, our hospitals have seen an increase in net patient revenue of over 56.9 million in one year because more people are covered and can get the care they need. ACA repeal would devastate our economic stability and leave our state holding the bag, struggling to make up for unprecedented losses in funding.
If you live in Pennsylvania be sure to check out more information at the InsurePA Campaign website.
I should also mention that I ran smack into a guy I went to highschool with, Bob Morgan, who is working with Congressman Cartwright. It was no surprise to me that Bob should end up with a career in the political realm, clearly this was his professional destiny (if you knew him back then you would get it).
The events were both well organized in light of being all volunteer endeavors with no budget for advertising, very grassroots indeed. Unfortunately, so many of the people who would be most impacted by a repeal of the ACA can't afford Internet, and so promoting exclusively via social media only goes so far. Also, for many it wouldn't have been wise to brave the high winds and half dollar size hail. But I think as the organizers become more seasoned and the word spreads, they will have more support.
We can't go back.
If you have been to a rally, what has your experience been? Have you connected with your elected officials to make your voice heard? Tell it in the comments!