Violin player facing death comes to Washington to fight Trumpcare
Kati McFarland |

WASHINGTON – Kati McFarland is a 26-year-old double major in violin and business at the University of Arkansas. And she’s a very ill patient – one who would be dead, literally, without the Affordable Care Act.

That’s what drove her to Washington July 19 to join members of National Nurses United and community and activist allies from around the nation who marched on the Senate to demand Medicare For All. Dozens were peacefully arrested in sit-ins there, too.

Chanting slogans such as “What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? Now!” and carrying homemade signs – one notably said “$Greed$ KILLS” – on the issue, the group, many armed with legal aid and possessing bail money, descended on GOP solons’ suites.

But before they did, McFarland was one featured speaker at the pre-march rally in a Capitol Hill church. NNU and other march co-sponsors called it to energize the 500-plus people who demanded solons (a) not repeal the ACA and (b) then pass Medicare for All, the single-payer government-run universal health care plan NNU has pushed for at least a decade.

And McFarland, who spoke after NNU Co-President Jean Ross of Minnesota, had her own story to tell – the story she used in confronting right-wing GOP Sen. Tom Cotton at his town hall meeting in her hometown of Springdale earlier this year.

McFarland is the victim of several “orphan diseases” – ailments so rare that medicines and treatments for them are unavailable, uninvented or extremely expensive. One of her “pre-existing conditions” is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an incurable genetic disorder that leaves her confined to a wheelchair and walkers, with heart problems and relying on a feeding tube.

“Without the protections” and funding “from Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid, I would be slowly starving to death” from her pre-existing condition, McFarland said, using the GOP’s insulting nickname for the ACA. If Arkansas Republican Sens. Tom “Cotton and (John) Boozman continue their crusade to repeal Obamacare, I will slowly starve to death.

“And even with Medicare, Medicaid and the” ACA’s health “exchanges, I still have $75,000 yearly in out-of-pocket medical expenses. The solution is not ‘repeal and replace,’ but Medicare and Medicaid for all.”

That was the point of the entire rally, march, lobbying and sit-ins at Senate offices. It was also Ross’ point when she urged participants, including dozens of her NNU members, on.  NNU nurses came to D.C. from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas to campaign against ACA repeal and for single-payer.

“We’re winning,” Ross declared, as public pressure killed the Senate GOP’s supposed health care bill the day before the rally. But she warned the crowd not to be satisfied with that victory, since the real GOP threat to health care – repeal with no replacement – still exists.

Death of the GOP’s alleged ACA replacement bill, pushed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came after mass rallies and protests, including union protests, nationwide. But McConnell isn’t giving up: Now he wants to repeal the ACA, and not replace it.

That angers Ross and her nurses. “We’re here to send a message to President Trump – it’s hard to say that name – and every Republican member of Congress: We will stand and fight for the health care of our patients. Repeal of the ACA will harm tens of thousands of them and we will not stand for that!” she stated.

But Ross also made it clear that NNU and its march allies, such as the Physicians for a National Health Program and the Center for Popular Democracy, wouldn’t be satisfied just with saving the ACA and with beating the Republicans who want to take people’s health care away.

“We must send a strong message to Republicans and (her emphasis) Democrats: Our present system, the status quo, is not good enough. We must resist this cruel attempt to deny millions of people access to health care, all the while transferring hundreds of millions of dollars to the wealthiest people and the pharmaceutical industry,” Ross stated.

The solution to halting such a shift, she declares, is to enact the single-payer bill, HR676, pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mi. Single-payer is likely to go nowhere in the GOP-run Congress without public pressure, Ross admits.

By contrast, McConnell’s now-dead Senate GOP health care legislation would have thrown 22 million people out of health care, two-thirds of them next year. And it would have transferred $922 billion over a decade in tax cuts, gained from repealing the ACA’s taxes and cutting Medicaid, non-partisan congressional analysts say. Billions of that would have gone to the richest 1 percent of the U.S. and to the pharmaceutical industry, Ross added.

So Ross and other speakers urged the crowd to keep the heat on Congress until it caves in and passes single-payer. The other speakers said they’re constructing a viable single-payer system for the entire country and they urged the crowd to push that cause.

They also predicted politicians will eventually follow the people, who, NNU declares, are trending more and more towards backing single-payer. Right now, though, the Republicans are turning a deaf ear, and Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Cal., and the Democratic House Speaker there have stopped NNU’s statewide single-payer legislation. The two pols raise cost concerns.

“They (politicians) talk about health care being a privilege, but we’re way past that,” D.C. physician Ranjiv Sri said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do in the rest of 2017,” he warned. And while he spoke before McFarland, Sri added, “Not all of us will survive this fight if we don’t speak up and keep doing what we’re doing today.”

“Health care is not a commodity. It is a basic human right,” Ross concluded.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.