About 75 local health care professionals have signed a letter to Congressman John Faso, asking him to make sure Americans’ health care needs are met effectively, even though he voted in favor of the Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A contingent of people who signed the letter will be on hand to deliver it to the congressman’s Kingston office on Wednesday, February 15, part of a grass-roots drive to urge Faso to support issues that may not be on his Republican agenda.
The author and first signer of the letter was Dr. Randy Rissman, who recently retired from his long-time practice with Maverick Family Health, just after joining the HealthQuest group of care providers and facilities. Other doctors have also signed, as well as nurses, social workers, physical therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, dietitians, naturopaths, and dentists.
The letter reads, in part, “We all have witnessed patients who have been hurt–in some cases, who have even lost their lives–as a result of finding themselves either underinsured or uninsured. And we have all witnessed people whose lives have been saved or improved as a result of the provisions of The Affordable Care Act. We acknowledge that the ACA is flawed. However, it has many good points that must be preserved in any viable replacement. In particular, the unconscionable policies of rejecting applicants due to pre-existing conditions must never return.”
Other provisions demanded include maintaining Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; avoiding high deductibles; prohibiting lifetime caps on services. The letter ends, “We ask for an ongoing, respectful, and forward-thinking dialogue about how to continue to provide high-quality, affordable healthcare services to our patients, your constituents here in District 19. We look forward to helping you be a champion, a thought leader, and a force for change and improvement in local and national health care delivery.”
The letter was initiated by Eve Fox, a Woodstock resident who, like many other locals, has been galvanized by the presidency of Donald Trump. She worked for years as a consultant for progressive non-profits, where organizing and advocacy were part of her job, but she had not been involved in local political organizing efforts before.
“Activism’s not hard for me,” said Fox, “but I haven’t wanted to be involved in politics. I’m only doing it out of love for my country and a terrible fear that democracy is under attack. I feel better when I’m doing things, going to meetings or rallies. The women’s march in New York City was wonderful. It made me feel less alone and more hopeful about people’s power to make a difference.”
In response to a Facebook announcement, she attended a Kingston rally organized by Citizen Action of New York, a group that was working on the ACA issue. Soon she was attending Citizen Action meetings and their weekly Faso Friday protests, gathering in front of Faso’s Kingston office to demand the congressman support ACA provisions. In the course of sharing the protest events on Facebook, she learned from Rissman’s daughter that he was interested in gathering local health care professionals to take action on ACA. Fox suggested the letter as an organizing tool and set it up online. The signatures accumulated rapidly.
She expects that keeping up the pressure on Faso and other members of Congress will have an effect on the fate of ACA or whatever measures are devised to replace it. “Congress voted in favor of repealing ACA,” she observed. “Now they’re backpedaling. They’re all realizing it’s going to be challenging to eliminate affordable health care and also get reelected.”
Regarding specific provisions of ACA, Faso has consistently said he would allow kids to stay on their parents’ insurance till the age of 26. “That’s an easy one,” said Fox. “Most kids don’t have a lot of health expenses. He supports a looser ban on pre-existing conditions, such that people can’t be rejected but can be subjected to a long wait period—but people who are seriously ill can’t wait.” Faso has refused to comment about women having to pay more for health coverage or the concept of annual or lifetime caps on coverage.
Last Saturday, a grass-roots group called Indivisible CD19 NY sent 300 people to Faso’s house in Kinderhook. He was out, but his wife spoke cordially with the protesters. When Faso returned home, he had no choice but to talk to the crowd, including a young woman with a brain tumor, the daughter of one of his friends. She told him she had been kicked off her health insurance and was able to get back on through ACA. “She told him, ‘I need you to promise I’ll have health care,’” reported Fox. “He promised and hugged her. We have it on video.”
Fox was also inspired to set up a website, Daily Acts of Resistance, to make it easier for people to get involved in protecting health care, women’s rights, the environment, and other issues of current concern. Several times a week, she suggests an action and provides phone numbers or email addresses, plus a script people can use for calling or writing. Recommendations have included asking congresspeople to take a stand on a particular issue, thanking companies who have offered resistance to the Trump agenda, and other actions. Visit the website at http://www.dailyactsofresistance.org.