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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Local "Die-In" opposes House American Health Care Act; June 14 is Stop TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day

By Michele Bourdieu

At their "Die-In" event on May 13, 2017, local opponents of the Republican House of Representatives' American Health Care Act of 2017, gather at Veteran's Park in Houghton to protest Michigan 1st District Rep. Jack Bergman's "yes" vote for the May 4 passage of the bill, H.R. 1628, which proposes to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and "defund" Planned Parenthood. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- On May 13, 2017, about a week after Republicans in the US House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017 (H.R. 1628) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA or Obamacare), about 75 local concerned citizens gathered in Veteran's Park in Houghton and stretched out on the grass in a symbolic "Die-In" to protest the proposed law that would deprive millions of health insurance they now receive through the Affordable Care Act.

Participants in the May 13 "Die-In" display tombstone-shaped signs protesting aspects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the Republican House -- including projections that 24 million people would lose health care coverage nationally. Over 40,000 in Rep. Jack Bergman's Michigan District 1 could lose coverage under the AHCA.

Now, a month later, Republicans in the US Senate are preparing their own version of the bill "behind closed doors," in the hope of passing a bill before July 4th, according to a June 12, 2017, article in USA Today, which notes concerns of some Republicans and strong opposition from Democrats because of the lack of transparency in preparation of the bill.*

The Indivisible Movement, one of the hosts of the May 13 "Die-In" has declared today, June 14, 2017, Stop #TrumpCare Senate Call-In Day. Indivisible asks concerned citizens to call their senators today and tell them to reject TrumpCare and their closed-room deal to take health care away from millions of people.**

At the "Die-in" speakers and other participants noted reasons for their strong opposition to the American Health Care Act passed by the House.

Matt Seigel of Houghton offered an introduction.

"We're here today in response to a threat to the lives and health of thousands of people in Michigan and across the country, a threat aided by the actions of our own Congressional Representative, Jack Bergman, for the primary purpose of further enriching the wealthiest Americans while unnecessarily hurting the most vulnerable among us," said Seigel. "Jack Bergman voted to take health care away from millions of ordinary, working Americans so that he could give a huge tax cut to the richest and most secure among us, the very people who need the least, but take the most."

Seigel noted also that the AHCA lets states opt out of coverage for pregnancy, maternity and newborn care. It would also roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including cancer, asthma, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer's and more.***

Two high school students from Houghton -- Ganna Omar and Daphne Maki -- were among the youngest participants in the "Die-in."

Daphne Maki, left, and Ganna Omar, both of Houghton, display their sign of concern for those with pre-existing conditions, who could lose health care coverage under the American Health Care Act passed by the Republican House.

"I'm 16, but I would have a pre-existing condition under this bill," said Maki. "I'm here for myself and my future, but also the future of others who would be negatively affected as well."

Omar, a high school freshman, said, "I'm very fortunate to have insurance and not be affected by this bill, but I feel strongly about voicing the need to protest other Americans' health care."

Signs at the "Die-in" show strong opposition to the House Republicans' American Health Care Act (AHCA).

One of the speakers, Marika Seigel, co-organizer of the "Die-in," shared a testimonial from her brother, who had four different types of cancer that totaled $100,000 in medical bills after surgery.

"Luckily, about a year earlier I had enrolled the Affordable Care Act," her brother said. "As a part time woodworker and teacher, I had no health benefits. I found a plan that was reasonably priced, and in the end saved me tens of thousands of dollars. Even after a large price reduction given by the hospital due to my income level, it's likely I would have had to declare bankruptcy without the coverage I had under the Affordable Care Act. It is not a perfect bill, but it encouraged me to get insured after going about 6 years without medical insurance if any kind. Luckily I now have a job with benefits, but the ACA helped me when I needed it."

More signs at the "Die-in" reflect concerns about cancer and other serious illnesses that require good coverage.

Valorie Troesch, co-organizer of the "Die-In" event and active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, spoke about the experience of her niece, who suffered from stage 4 melanoma before the ACA and had no health insurance. Troesch recounted how she accompanied her niece to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and helped her pay for tests, but she still lacked the thousands it would cost for surgeries and treatment.

"No one who hasn't been there can understand how it feels to hear a doctor tell a 30-year-old mother with a 10-month-old baby at home that she has 3-6 months to live without treatment," Troesch said. "Her only option for health insurance coverage was Medicaid -- and, to qualify, she had to separate from her husband (who had lost his job). So that is what she did. She received the care she needed and today is in full remission. But the stress of separation destroyed her marriage so she still paid a very high price."

Troesch reminded the audience that the United States is the only developed country in the world without universal health care, while Rep. Bergman, as a retired general, has the very best health care money can buy -- paid for by us, the taxpayers.

Valorie Troesch, right, addresses participants in the "Die-in." She told a story about how lack of health insurance affected her niece's life. Pictured with megaphone is Matt Seigel.

Cynthia Drake spoke about her own personal experience as a single parent and business owner without health insurance until the ACA came along.

"Before the ACA was created, I did not have health insurance for over a year when I left 'regular employment' to build my own business," Drake said. "I could not afford to buy insurance and so I went without it. The ACA has allowed me to have health insurance again, and now I can build my business and support my family as a single parent while having health care so that I do not have to worry about emergencies which might arise in my health -- and I get preventative health care to maintain my health. Without the ACA I still wouldn't have insurance -- and I think I represent many people."

Anne Newcombe of the Keweenaw People's Movement, said she believed the "Die-In" action showed people are not taking health care lightly.

"I guarantee that for every person that was out there (at Veteran's Park) there are 20 more that think the same thing," she said.

Bill Binroth of Chassell spoke about his own experience of family loss.

"I recently lost a grand-nephew due to a lack of healthcare coverage in a misunderstanding with his employer," Binroth said.

Today Binroth added his concerns about the potential Senate bill.

"What's going on in the Senate right now is of major concern," Binroth told Keweenaw Now. "From the leaks that have come out, it sounds like their bill is not much better than that of the House of Representatives, i.e., leaving millions without healthcare coverage. We're anxiously awaiting what might be in store for the American people."

In addition to Indivisible, the "Die-In" was also hosted by the Houghton County Democratic Party and Houghton/Keweenaw Forward Action Michigan.

** Click here to learn about the Indivisible June action plan to stop TrumpCare in the Senate.

*** For details on the AHCA see the May 4, 2017, New York Times article, "What’s in the AHCA: The Major Provisions of the Republican Health Bill."  For a Library of Congress summary of the bill, click here.