As Congress gears up to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a crowd met Saturday morning at Clark College to make their message clear: Health care is a human right.
Held in conjunction with others across the country sponsored by Our Revolution, the movement created by Bernie Sanders, the Vancouver rally drew about 200 demonstrators.
Local organizer Paulina Oberg said that simply put, the rally was to combat what she called “class-based warfare.”
“(The rally) is a direct response to the outright assault by Republican leaders, including our own congressman Jaime Herrera Beutler, as well as our Washington State legislation and the Trump administration,” Oberg said. “This assault is on the most vulnerable persons in our community, the people who aren’t able to afford health care.”
Doctors, hospital representatives, patients and everyday citizens took to the stage Saturday to tell their stories of how repealing the Affordable Care Act could have dire repercussions.
Kristin Sullivan, a 39-year-old Vancouver woman, told the story of how three years ago she was diagnosed with stage two papillary thyroid cancer.
Surgeons removed her thyroid, meaning she has to take medication to replicate the thyroid hormone. Without it, she said, her body will begin to shut down.
“This medication, I have to take for the rest of my life because if I don’t, that will be my path. I will slowly die on a molecular level until I slip into a coma and pass away,” she said. “It’s because of these dependencies that I’m absolutely terrified of what my future might be without the Affordable Care Act.”
Sullivan said that she was enraged by lawmakers putting her and other Americans in a situation where they may not have health care coverage because of preexisting conditions.
“I am tired of sitting here, looking at these billionaires who can walk into any medical facility in the United States and get the care they need and acting so flippant about the care that I need,” she said, which was met with uproarious applause.
She had a message for her representatives: “My taxes pay your job. This country was built on all of our backs. This government runs on our backs. You don’t get to decide that I don’t live, that our friends and family don’t live, because we don’t have access to what we need to survive.”
Dr. Christopher Hale also told his frustration of working in an emergency room.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, Hale said he was constantly met by patients who had strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure that were preventable had they been to a doctor sooner. Most of the time, they would tell him they hadn’t gone to the doctor because they were uninsured and couldn’t afford the bill.
“After the ACA was rolled out, I began seeing a change in conversations,” he said.
It happened when he was finished treating the patients in the ER and asked them to follow up with a primary care doctor. Hale was encouraged because he began hearing that they had just signed up for health insurance and that his patients were getting primary care doctors.
“People come to the ER when they’re in their worst situations in their lives and it would be better if we could keep them healthy, and that’s what the ACA does,” he said.
He ended by challenging demonstrators to do more to help save the law that meant life or death of so many.
“Sometimes people call doctors heroes but I’m not a hero … We all are heroes and we all need to do our part to defend those in need and unfortunately right now there are a lot of those in need,” he said. “I call on everyone here to embrace the role of the hero; to do everything that you can, with every spare moment you have, to fight for those in need because right now the country really needs us. They need a hero. Be a hero.”