They came with trombones. They came with drums. They came with incredulity.
Around 150 protesters attended a rally in support of the Affordable Care Act this afternoon in front of the Midtown Kingston district office Congressman John Faso, a Republican, who was elected last fall and recently named to a special budget committee tasked with retooling Obamacare. Organized by Move Forward New York, based in New Paltz, the rally was one of many held today across the country.
The music was supplied by a brass band, whose horns were answered by more than a few enthusiastic motorists. The incredulity was on the lips of the attendees, who acknowledged the flaws of the ACA, but couldn’t understand why it would be repealed before a comprehensive alternative plan is presented that would provide coverage for the uninsured (and previously uninsurable).
“Without another plan to switch people over to it’s a death wish,” said Franco Carucci of New Paltz, who said he has several family members who wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance without the law.
Attendees were skeptical that Republicans planned to produce a viable alternative to the law.
“If Faso is the first Republican ever to have such a plan, let him come out with it and show it and maybe he’ll get kudos for it,” said Matt Burd of New Paltz.
“Based on the responses I saw from Faso’s office, it looks like smoke and mirrors,” said Judy Diamond of Gardiner. She said ideas like purchasing health insurance across state lines and flexible spending plans are insufficient or have been tried. “We finally got something that addresses tens of millions of people that weren’t covered before. Why go backward?”
In the absence of a comprehensive Republican alternative ready to go, protesters tended to assume the health care system would revert to its pre-ACA status. Attempts to remove the law’s unpopular features, like the mandate to purchase insurance or pay a penalty, while maintaining popular features, like requiring companies to cover those with preexisting conditions, would lead to an unacceptable increase in cost, leading the young and healthy to drop out again and the uninsured to get care at the emergency room — the dreaded “death spiral.”
“We have very, very short political memory in this country and we forget how the system was before the Affordable Care Act was passed,” said Dr. Fabio Danisi, a neurologist from New Paltz. He mentioned the 1 in 7 Americans who didn’t have health insurance and the large number of bankruptcies from hospital bills.
Danisi said the law wasn’t perfect and contained regulations that made an overcomplicated system even more bureaucratic to administer. Still, to move forward with repeal without an alternative would amount to “an assault on what I believe is a fundamental human right”— access to health care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.
Caroline Paulson of New Paltz is worried that, as a diabetic dependent on insulin, she’d run into a lifetime benefit cap, a once-common feature of insurance plans that was outlawed by the ACA. “I just feel we’re all little pawns in this great big political game where nobody cares about our health care at all.”
The rally was coordinated by Debra Clinton and Arlene Santaniello, who said they got the word out mostly through social media.
Clinton said she hopes Congressman Faso will take notice. “There are many people who depend on the ACA in the community and we want him to think about those people when he’s voting.”
She said attendees were “either personally concerned because it means they’re going to lose their care or concerned for the greater good.”
Santaniello has two twenty-something children who wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance without the law. She also expressed concern about the effect repeal would have on other demographics. “The problem is it’s the most vulnerable people that get affected by cuts and those are the people who need help the most.”
Her suggestion? Improve the flaws of the ACA, but “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”