About 25 demonstrators staged a “die-in” outside the East Main Street office of Rep. Jim Jordan (R). After telling why Trumpcare — officially known as the American Health Care Act — would hurt them and millions of other Americans, they lay on the sidewalk holding cardboard tombstones.
“R.I.P. America, death by Trumpcare,” read one sign. “R.I.P. Pre-existing conditions,” read another.
The gallows humor was about a deadly serious issue. A 2009 Harvard Medical School study found 45,000 Americans die annually due to a lack of healthcare.
Protesters worried that the bill Jordan voted for, which passed last week in the House of Representatives to repeal and replace Obamacare — officially known as the Affordable Care Act — will cause more sickness and death. Republicans voted before the Congressional Budget Office could analyze the bill, but an earlier version estimated 24 million Americans would lose coverage by 2026.
The bill is now before the Senate which could make major changes before a final vote. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) is among the 13-member Senate “working group” drafting a plan.
Protesters described Trumpcare as a reverse-Robin Hood plan in which poor people are deprived of coverage to provide tax cuts for the rich. Families earning at least $200,000 annually would receive a $5,680 cut annually, according to the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center. Families earning $1 million annually would receive a $51,410 cut.
For many of the protesters, healthcare is a deeply personal issue. As a medical biller for 20 years for hospitals and nursing homes, Norwalk resident Jackie Schaffer said she saw how Obamacare allowed more people to pay for drug rehabilitation and short-term stays in nursing homes.
Schaffer has fibromyalgia, a disease causing muscular pain, mood swings, memory loss and fatigue. Schaffer, who is covered through the plan of her husband’s employer, worries changes in pre-existing coverage could mean higher premiums and deductibles they can’t afford.
“The insurance premium is going to end up going so high that we’ll probably end up living in our car because we’re not able to afford our house payment,” Schaffer told Neil Lynch, Jordan’s deputy district director. “The American Health Care Act is not for the American people. It is not going to help the average American. It’s going to help the wealthy. It’s going to help the insurance companies turn over a bigger profit so that their CEOs can get a bigger bonus.”
Jordan, who represents the 4th Congressional District which includes Norwalk, wasn’t at the protest and wouldn’t grant an interview to the Reflector. In a written statement, he said people at at the Norwalk Rotary Club meeting he attended Monday told him Obamacare is too expensive and doesn’t provide enough choices.
“While the legislation that the House passed last week wasn’t full repeal, it is a crucial first step toward replacing Obamacare with affordable healthcare that also protects Americans dealing with preexisting conditions,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to continue making this legislation better, so that the final law will help everyday Americans who can no longer afford Obamacare.”
While Obamacare has allowed 20 million more Americans to be covered since it passed in 2010, the protesters conceded it needs improvement. Some suggested lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 or 55, taking the pressure off Obamacare.
Others called for single-payer healthcare, a government-run system in which costs come out of paychecks like Social Security taxes and there are no premiums or deductibles. By eliminating insurance company administrative costs and profits, supporters say it would save billions.
Martha Ferrazza of Oberlin, said after her father died in 1985 of multiple myloma, a bone cancer, her mother was “overwhelmed” with bills despite being covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield. She noted Trumpcare would allow employers to cap out-of pocket payments for catastrophic illnesses which is forbidden under Obamacare.
“It affects people who have employer-based plans and whose family doesn’t have a catastrophic illness or a death?” Ferrazza said. “Shame on Jim Jordan and the rest of the GOP for celebrating this bill.”
Lynch told protesters Trumpcare is needed because Obamacare is failing. He said people shouldn’t be forced to buy health insurance or pay for coverage they may not need such as maternity care or addiction treatment.
“The answer is not going to be continually more money, more money, more money,” Lynch said.
“You’ve got people losing care today because their health insurance is going up so high they’re choosing not to pay for it, people who aren’t eligible for the subsidies. Or their deductibles are going up so high they choose not to go and get the service that they need because they can’t afford it.
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The bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that passed in the House of Representatives last week would hike premiums and slash services for many Americans. Among the bill’s provisions:
• Cutting $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid which provides medical coverage to about 74 million disabled, elderly and poor Americans. Medicaid cuts could also hurt special education programs, because schools rely on Medicaid reimbursements, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
• Cut $300 billion over 10 years for subsidies for people who buy healthcare through the insurance marketplace because their employer doesn’t provide it, according to the CBO.
• Eliminate the individual mandate that requires people to buy healthcare or face a tax penalty. Removing the mandate — an idea created by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the 1990’s to encourage personal responsibility — could cause young, healthy people to not get coverage. That could crash the market as insurers covering only old and sick people could stop offering healthcare.
• Allow states to opt out of requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Trumpcare calls for setting up “high risk pools” for sick people and calls for spending $138 million over 10 years for the pools. Critics say that’s not nearly enough. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates at least $250 million is needed over 10 years.
• Allows states to opt out of requiring insurance companies to cover services such as addiction treatment, cancer care and mental illness treatment, according to the Brookings Institution.
• De-funds Planned Parenthood which provides contraception, cancer screenings and other care to 2.5 million people, mainly women.
• Older Americans would be charged at least a 5-to-1 higher ratio than younger Americans compared to the 3-to-1 maximum under Obamacare.
• Eliminates Obamacare’s restriction on caps for catastrophic care coverage for people with employer-based care.