Both sides of the US Congress made the first steps towards repealing the Affordable Care Act this past week, casting votes that set in motion the dismantling of outgoing president Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare bill—although no-one knows how or when it may be replaced.
As the Republican-led push to kill what’s become known as Obamacare gains steam, though, Americans from both parties are pleading with politicians on social media, at town halls, and through press conferences and rallies not to tear it down without a replacement. The repeal of the act is expected to leave some 20 million people—many of them self-employed or with pre-existing conditions who insurance companies have traditionally refused to cover—completely uninsured.
(The repeal would also give the 400 richest households in America an average tax cut of $7 million each.)
Even with the ACA, the US remains the only major developed nation without universal healthcare. While the healthcare act has been characterized as a Democratic folly by Republicans, people who have signed on say it has literally been a lifesaver, and warn its repeal would be a national crisis.
Tennessee residents flooded senator Lamar Alexander’s Nashville office in person this week to ask the Republican not to repeal the bill without a replacement. “None of us walk into the hospital as a Republican or a Democrat,” Kristen Grimm, whose son has had 19 surgeries because of a condition he was born with, told Alexander, the Spring Hill Home Page reported. “We all enter as human beings seeking mercy and quality health care.”
About 270,000 people in Tennessee are covered by the ACA.
Washington state governor Jay Inslee held a Jan. 12 press conference with doctors, nurses, and some of the states 750,000 people covered under the act to beg politicians in Washington, DC not to repeal the act without a replacement, local KOMO News reported. Christine Griffiths, a breast cancer survivor who relies on ACA, said if she was afraid it would be dismantled with no replacement “because I will have no other option than to just not treat myself. And I will die.”
On Jan. 12, a self-described “Republican who worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns,” who said he was against Obamacare when it first appeared, confronted House speaker Paul Ryan, a chief proponent of repeal plans, during a CNN town hall. After getting cancer, he said, Obamacare saved his life. “Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?” he asks. “I want to thank president Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him,” he said.
On Twitter, US citizens shared stories of how the health care act had saved their lives under the #SaveACA hashtag:
And thousands have left comments about healthcare on the Facebook pages of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who has declared repealing the Affordable Care Act a priority back in 2010. Most of them are sharply critical:
Here’s a real story for you. I have a pre-existing condition that requires generator (battery) replacement surgery about every ten years. I have relied heavily on ACA for my regular cardiology appointments since 2010. I’m due for surgery sometime this summer-fall. My union insurance doesn’t kick in until early 2018. Without ACA, I won’t be able to afford surgery. Without surgery my heart will stop. I have never felt such a direct attack from right-wing politicians before.
The Affordable care act “was one of the most successful exchange programs in the nation and provided hundreds of thousands of people with affordable health care. It dropped the uninsured rate and gave some people health insurance for the first time ever in their lives. You are going to repeal peoples healthcare without a replacement and ruin the lives of so many. You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to KY and the USA.”
Tomorrow, “Save Health Care” rallies will be held across the US from San Francisco to Portland, Maine.