Duluth News Tribune: Opponents of Republican health package speak out in Duluth
Just a couple hours before the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and replace it with the Republican-favored American Health Care Act, a vociferous group gathered in front of the Duluth Labor Temple to rail against the bill.
Dan O'Neil, president of the Duluth AFL-CIO Central Labor Body, said U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan would have liked to attend the event in person but sent a statement instead, as he was on Capitol Hill, preparing to cast his vote against the bill
Nolan said the bill the House passed Thursday was even worse than the original version of the American Health Care Act that had earlier been withdrawn for lack of support.In the statement, Nolan said of the Republican health care bill: "Their message is simple and direct. Don't be sick. Don't be old. And don't be poor. Because the sicker, the older and the poorer you are, the more you're going to pay."
"Apparently it's not enough for them to take health benefits away from 24 million people, provide a shameless $600 billion tax cut to the wealthiest 1 percent and cut Medicaid benefits for the old and the poor by $800 billion," he said, predicting that the new bill will make insurance coverage unaffordable for people with pre-existing health conditions.
Mary Kirsling, a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association with more than 40 years of bedside experience, shared similar concerns.
Kirsling said she was diagnosed with breast cancer 8½ years ago and received extensive and costly treatment to successfully combat the disease, with the help of her insurance plan. But as a cancer survivor, she expressed apprehension about a future where people with pre-existing conditions will be forced into more expensive high-risk pools.
"With this proposed bill, millions of us have good reason to be worried. Pre-existing conditions include things such as depression, mental health, C-sections, rape, asthma and diabetes," she said, predicting: "Insurers will game the system to provide only healthy people with coverage."
Dr. Al Peterson, an internist, said the bill approved by the House Thursday had not received adequate review.
"We're being asked to buy a pig in a poke, meaning that we're being asked to buy something that's largely concealed from our examination," he said.
Peterson noted that typically bills are sent to committee for study before they go to a vote of the full House. He pointed out that public hearings that would normally be part of the process did not occur, as the current health care bill was pushed to a vote with little public vetting.
What's more, Peterson said the House vote occurred before the Congressional Budget Office even had a chance to review the bill and predict what it would cost and how many Americans would likely lose coverage if it is adopted.
Duluth City Council President Joel Sipress said that if the AHCA becomes law, "It will put the health care of millions and millions of people at risk, including thousands of people right here in Duluth. And when politicians in Washington put a target on the back of the people that I represent, you better believe I'm going to speak out against that."
Sipress said his 19-year-old daughter, Rachel, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago, a condition that requires constant care.
"What the ACA did was to provide millions of people with the assurance that they would be able to purchase the health insurance they need to get the care they need to live every day, without ending up in the poorhouse. And this legislation would take that protection away. Those are the stakes, and that's why we're here today," he said.