“I’m sixty-one, and you see I’m kinda limping and I don’t know what it is. If they take certain benefits away, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
With Congress back in session, many Senators and Representatives are hearing from their constituents about concerns regarding the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republican Congressman Mike Coffman recently left a meeting in Aurora early after a large crowd showed up demanding answers. As a result of his early, back door departure, many of his constituents couldn’t speak to him about his support of the repeal of the law. Many congressional staffers are saying they’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls from constituents and some local offices are being targeted for protest.
KGNU’s Julia Caulfield brings us this report from one such action at the Denver office of US Senator Cory Gardner.
Kelly Stahlman says she has been a consumer advocate for healthcare for many years. She has also experienced first hand the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Before Obamacare, her insurance company denied necessary medical treatment for one of her sons. While Medicaid eventually paid for it, it lead to a delay in his care. After the healthcare rollout, her other son required the same treatment and it was provided the same day.
“I had raised three sons and buried two. I had twins with profound cerebral palsy that lived into their twenties. Eric just passed last year. And we are, you know, necessity is the mother of invention, we had to learn about both private health insurance and Medicaid because of both Mark and Eric’s complex needs.”
Stahlman was just one of the nearly 200 people that gathered outside Senator Cory Gardner’s Denver office to share their concerns about the potential repeal of the ACA. The Republican has been a vocal advocate of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Protesters chanted and held signs. Several people spoke and organizers delivered over a thousand petitions asking Senator Gardner not to repeal the ACA without a plan for replacement.
Jake Williams, Executive Director of Healthier Colorado a healthcare consumer advocacy group and organizer of the event, says that repealing without a replacement would be disastrous.
“The equivalent of doing so would be to jump off a cliff with no plan to land. And on an issue so important, so fundamental as health, there are so many Coloradoans concerned and that’s why you saw so many people out on the streets, sending this message to the Senator.”
In 2013, Leah Pryor-Lease’s wife had premature twins. They were born at 30 weeks and six days and spent six weeks in the NICU. During that time, Pryor-Lease and her wife incurred nearly a million dollars in medical bills. She says that without health insurance they would have been forced into bankruptcy. In addition, she’s concerned about their future healthcare coverage.
“The preexisting conditions clause, being able to cover them into adulthood to make sure that they get the care that they need, they’re critical to us, and those previsions keep my children alive, and so that’s why we’re here today. We want to make sure that those stories are heard.”
Ethel Ayo has work in the healthcare field for a number of years. She says as she gets older, she is concerned about what will happen if the ACA is repealed.
“You know, I’ve worked in healthcare most of my adult life, and I never had insurance until Obamacare came out, except for Medicare and Medicaid, and I just got that. And I don’t want it taken away, now I’m sixty-one, and you see I’m kinda limping and I don’t know what it is. If they take certain benefits away, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Rally organizer Jake Williams says that while Obamacare isn’t perfect, there needs to be a bipartisan conversation about where to go next.
“Speaking for Healthier Colorado, I would concede that the ACA is not perfect, and we would happily engage in a good faith conversation about how it can be improved. But right now that conversation is not happening. All we’re hearing about is an effort to repeal and no specific plan to replace.”
Congress has until January 27th to draft legislation to repeal the law.