Lawmakers around the country are getting an earful from their constituents about Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. After seeing their colleagues get dressed down by constituents worried about losing their health care, some Republican legislators decided to forego town hall meetings during the February recess.
If Republicans carry through on their plans to repeal Obamacare, critics warn, more than twenty million people will lose their insurance, and health-care costs could become unaffordable. Republicans appear to be hammering out a replacement plan that would kill core parts of the ACA, trading “access” to market-based coverage for a guarantee of insurance.
In light of widespread resistance to the attack on the ACA, immigrants, reproductive rights and other items on the Republican agenda, some Republican lawmakers in state legislatures are resorting to limiting the right to public assembly. These measures include a Tennessee bill indemnifying drivers who strike protesters with their cars and a measure in Arizona that makes it legal to seize the assets of people involved in protests that turn violent.
Nonetheless, citizens are continuing to press the point that protecting health care is crucial. Here are some suggestions on how to make your voice heard.
Tell your story
Share your story about access to healthcare. Finding your voice encourages others to do the same.
After Brenda Patoine penned a Facebook post with her “health care story,” she was contacted by the Rights & Democracy advocacy group to speak at a rally in Burlington, Vermont. By her own account, she got over a stomach-churning fear of public speaking to address a 1,000-person crowd and later a “policy wonk at my U.S. Congressman’s office.”
Tennessean high school teacher Jessi Bohon’s emotional appeal to Representative Diane Black and local Republican officials at a panel in February went viral on Twitter, as did many angry exhortations by constituents at town halls around the country.
Push to improve and expand Obamacare where you live
Despite the Republican push to dismantle Obamacare, some activists are fighting to expand its reach in their own state. Mainers for Health Care, a coalition of more than 100 health care, social services, and other statewide organizations, recently collected enough signatures to put on the November ballot a measure to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Maine is one of nineteen states to have foregone such an expansion, but now activists are putting more pressure on GOP officials to abandon their anti-ACA efforts.
Expanding Medicaid raises the political cost of rolling back Obamacare even more. Organizers in other states where elected officials have refused to expand Medicaid should take note.
Contact your elected officials
Constituents are calling their representatives to tell them how the Affordable Care Act has affected their lives and the lives of the people they know. Anyone can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 to ask to be directed to their Senators and Representatives.
Although Tom Price has already been appointed to head the Department of Health and Human Services, another critical post, that of administrator for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, is still in contention.
Trump’s nominee is Seema Verma, a rightwing health consultant who CNN recently described as "the [Mike] Pence ally who could remake healthcare policy.” According to Physicians for a National Health Program president Robert Zarr, Verma’s actions in Indiana “forced impoverished Medicaid enrollees to pay dearly for care, imposing unprecedented copayments and premiums on people with little chance of affording them; those who miss a payment are denied coverage."
The Senate finance committee greenlighted her nomination on March 1.
Demonstrate and organize
Thousands of people gathered outside state houses across the country on Saturday, February 25, to lobby lawmakers to protect the ACA and other health care policies. And a few days before President Trump’s inauguration, thousands took part in a national Day of Action to Save Health Care.
Constituents ignored by their elected officials are even planning their own “town halls,” inviting lawmakers and proceeding with the events whether they make it or not. Such gatherings are opportunities for activists to network and plan future actions, as well as embarrass the legislator in question for not showing up.
Activists have also taken to visiting unresponsive lawmakers’ offices to demand a meeting. On February 23, for instance, several hundred people demonstrated out of Republican Representative Dave Reichert's office.
Our Revolution offers opportunities to organize events and spread the word.
There are also a couple of petitions to defend the ACA floating around, including one spearheaded by Barack Obama, which you can sign here.
Support the groups doing good work
Here’s a list of groups engaged in providing health services, advocacy, and education at the national level. Give your support as a volunteer or donor, and follow their social media for updates. Look for local for local and state-level groups doing the same sort of work.