Three days after House Republicans passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a group of St. Petersburg residents, joined by Congressman Charlie Crist, is organizing some voter pushback against the “horrible bill.”
Approximately 70 citizens met up with the St. Petersburg Democrat in North Straub Park Sunday afternoon to announce that they intend to “stand up and fight back” against the bill, viewed by many as the biggest legislative victory in the young Trump presidency.
“It was a horrible bill then — this one is even worse,” said Crist, referring to the GOP’s first legislative attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare that did not get a vote in March.
The House narrowly voted Thursday to support a reconfigured version of the American Health Care Act, 217-213.
“I can’t imagine that anyone would pass it, that anyone would write it, that anyone would support it let alone vote for the darn thing,” Crist said in disgust. “It’s awful. And it’s like they don’t care about people, and I don’t think they do,” he said of congressional Republicans.
Going back to his first electoral victory in the Florida state Senate in 1992, Crist said the AHCA (which he voted against) was the “worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in all those years. The worst!”
Crist specifically called out three provisions of the legislation which upset him. One is that the bill completely defunds Planned Parenthood in its first year of implementation.
Referring to how the family planning organization does more than just perform abortions, Crist said: “the ignorance about that is stunning.”
Crist also decried the parts of the bill that permits insurance companies to charge as much as five times a person between the ages of 50-64, compared to costs to a healthy 20-something. The bill proposes more than $880 billion proposed in Medicaid cuts.
On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended those proposed cuts, saying the Medicaid system isn’t working (an argument echoed by state GOP lawmakers one was in defense of their opposition to Medicaid expansion in Florida).
“Doctors aren’t taking Medicaid, hospitals can’t survive with Medicaid alone. So by giving the states the ability to customize their Medicaid population their program to work for them,” Ryan said.
As an “eternal optimist,” Crist remains hopeful that the GOP Senate can substantially improve the bill. Republican Senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Lamar Alexander, are among those speaking out about the bill, he noted.
Crist also asked the crowd to contact Sen. Marco Rubio, prompting comments from the partisan crowd that they’ve tried, but couldn’t leave a message.
Others spoke to the crowd in defense of the ACA. Erica Behr, who said that when her husband’s kidney began to fail two years ago, she gave him one of hers. That is an act that the Republicans will punish her for, Behr said.
“This is a pre-existing condition for me,” she explained, adding that after kidney surgery, she developed autoimmune problems. “I would be on disability without my health care,” she said, “and that’s what the Republicans are trying to do if the ACA is repealed.”
“When you, your family or friends develop an illness, it becomes a pre-existing condition if your health care policy changes. People shouldn’t be punished financially for getting sick,” said Dr. Juan Dumois, chairman of the division or infectious disease at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
Sunday’s rally was one of more than 75 demonstrations scheduled to take place this weekend in opposition to the passage of the AHCA. Women’s March Pinellas and Awake Pinellas led the demonstration in St. Pete.