Uprising over healthcare spills onto the Senate floor
In Connecticut, like protesters in so many states, people made the point that the secret GOP healthcare bill will kill people. Here folks who gathered in the rain on the New Haven Green held up cardboard tombstones exposing the horrors of the secret Republican plan. | Art Perlo/PW

HARTFORD, Conn. — The message of the standing room only crowd at Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s emergency field hearing on health care at the State Capitol on Monday morning was clear: Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and do not allow the Senate Republican version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to pass and leave millions without coverage.

The packed hearing, called on one day’s notice, took place hours before Democrats took over the floor of the U.S. Senate to protest an expected vote on health care overhaul that Republican leaders have been crafting in secret with no public input or oversight.

The next two weeks are considered “code red” in the fight to stop a Republican maneuver to repeal the ACA.  The  House-passed AHCA would end coverage for 23 million people, gut Medicare, raise costs for seniors, de-fund Planned Parenthood, and re-instate the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with “pre-existing conditions,” while providing huge tax cuts for the super rich.

On Monday night one senator after another took the floor to oppose the cruelty of the expected bill and to call upon the people of the country to make their voices heard.

Blumenthal passionately told of the hard facts, personal testimonies, anger and fear expressed at his emergency field hearing in Hartford that morning.

Reflecting the mood of the country, health care professionals, advocacy groups and Connecticut residents had lined up to testify in opposition to the attempt by Republicans to push a bill through that will leave millions devastated and cost lives.  Each speaker received thunderous applause, as did Blumenthal.

Connecticut residents packed the field hearing at the State Capitol called by Sen. Richard Blumenthal to voice their opposition to repeal of the Affordable Care Act. | Win Heimer

According to Protect Our Care Connecticut, in this state alone 220,300 people would become uninsured including children, disabled and elderly.

One woman testified that the ACA saved her hundreds of thousand of dollars when she needed extensive and complicated treatment for an autoimmune disease. “It literally saved my life,” she said.

Another woman detailed the painful debilitation of her daughter as a result of opioid addiction and urged that money targeted to fight this scourge not be eliminated from the healthcare budget as would be done in the AHCA.

Speaking of the Republicans’ plan, Blumenthal said “We will use every tool at our disposal to limit this measure…Speed and secrecy are a recipe for disaster.”

He vowed to personally read into the record all of the testimony presented at the hearing and promised to hold another hearing “as soon as we know more” Looking toward the future as he has done at other rallies, Blumenthal said to loud applause, “ultimately we will have a single payer system.”

Testimony was presented from Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the state’s Healthcare Advocate, representatives of the Connecticut AIDS Coalition, New Haven Legal Services, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Protect Our Care CT, the Connecticut Alliance for Retired Americans and many others who described the disastrous effects the Republican plan would have on their personal lives.

The field hearing followed protests against the Republican “no-healthcare plan” in Connecticut and across the country during the Memorial Day congressional recess. Voters made it clear they had the 2018 elections in mind.

The 100 people who gathered in the rain on the New Haven Green holding up cardboard tombstones with captions exposing the horrors of the plan, were told that they made an impact far beyond Connecticut.

“Thank you for your activism,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal told them.  “Thank you for making your voices heard.”

Two days earlier, at New Haven’s Bella Vista senior housing complex, dozens of residents and guests applauded as Sen Chris Murphy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro arrived for a forum on healthcare.

“Enough is enough,” said Murphy at Bella Vista  “We have to speak as one” against making $600 billion in cuts to health care in order to give $600 billion in tax cuts to billionaires, drug and insurance companies, and allowing 23 million people to lose all coverage.

When one audience member said she didn’t see how the bill could be stopped in the Senate, DeLauro reminded her that years earlier when it seemed impossible, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract for America” that threatened every social program was stopped by a large public outcry.

The first version of Trump’s American Health Care Act was also stopped earlier this year when the town hall meetings of Republican members of Congress were flooded with angry constituents who made it clear that they did not want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and all its benefits.

The same outrage is now being directed at the Senate by many resistance groups, unions and civil rights organizations across the country.  The National Women’s Law Center issued a call to flood the Senate phone lines and demand that the Republican attack on health care be stopped because it “threatens the health care of millions of people including women, elderly people, children, and people with disabilities.”

Voters in eight states with Republican senators up for election in 2018 are especially being urged to jam the phone lines with calls from constituents.  Those states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.


CONTRIBUTOR

Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.

 

 

Win Heimer
Win Heimer

Win Heimer is an activist writing from Connecticut.

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