GOP Obamacare repeal efforts prompt another protest at Walorski office

Published in the South Bend Tribune: September 28, 2017, Author: Jeff Parrot

See original article here.

MISHAWAKA — Liberal grassroots groups opposed to Republican efforts to overturn Obamacare again protested outside Rep. Jackie Walorski’s downtown office Wednesday, and this time the speakers included potential Democratic candidates who might try to unseat her next November.

The event, featuring about 50 people holding picket signs, many of them reading, “Health care for the 99%,” also included speeches from people who conveyed personal stories about how Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would hurt their families.

The groups had planned the protest against the Graham-Cassidy bill, but it died Tuesday for lack of support among Senate Republicans. Still, the protesters said they believed the event was needed.

South Bend attorney Mary Patricia “Pat” Hackett, who announced she is considering a run for Walorski’s 2nd District House seat, called this third and latest failed Obamacare repeal effort a “cancer” that was placed “in remission” Tuesday but could come back at any time.

“The way to cure it is for the Democrats to take back Congress in 2018,” Hackett said to applause. “Specifically we need Jackie Walorski out of Congress.”

Hackett said she and Democrats differ from Walorski on health care in three “key” ways. First, Democrats believe health care is a right, not a privilege, she said.

Second, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare’s official name, should be improved, rather than repealed.

“There must be a movement towards universal coverage, even a single payer,” Hackett said.

“Third… women have a constitutional right to their own bodies, against the coercive power of the state,” she said. “I believe maternity coverage, reproductive rights, are pro-life. So is reducing the infant mortality rate through insurance.”

Also speaking at the event was Lynn Coleman, the Democrat who Walorski defeated in November. Coleman didn’t mention his potential candidacy at the podium, but afterward said he was still considering whether to try again next year. Coleman said it’s more important to him that a Democrat takes back the seat, so if someone else emerges who has better odds of winning than he does, he would step aside.

Also speaking was Yatish Joshi, owner of GTA Containers. Joshi is considering running for the seat, said St. Joseph County Democratic Party chair Jason Critchlow.

“This is a damn good law,” Joshi said of the ACA, “and we cannot afford to lose it.”

Yet another potential Democratic candidate, Mel Hall, did not attend the event. Hall, former CEO of Press Ganey, the South Bend firm that conducts consumer assessments for hospitals nationwide, has told Tribune political columnist Jack Colwell that he might run.

In addition to the politics, two mothers told stories about how repealing the ACA would hurt their children.

Cassie Walker-Sleman said her son, Bruce, was born premature and his medical bills, after six months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, totaled $1.5 million by the time he came home from Memorial Hospital. If the ACA’s lifetime out-of-pocket maximum is repealed, she and many parents like her would have no way of paying those bills, she said.

Following her at the podium was another mother, Charlice Hurst of Granger, who said her 8-year-old daughter, Seycha, also was born premature and was recently diagnosed with autism. The family moved to Canada and were pleased with Seycha’s care there, and recently returned to Granger.

Hurst said she recently learned that a local program for autism treatment plans to soon transition 20 children into public schools because Anthem is pulling out of Indiana’s ACA marketplace, citing uncertainty because the Trump administration has threatened to deny subsidy payments to insurers.

“Families with disabled children do not need any more financial threats,” Hurst said. “Already many of them can’t work because there are not enough services to cover their children during standard work hours.”

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