Threat Of Losing Obamacare Turns Some Apolitical Californians Into Protesters

Threat Of Losing Obamacare Turns Some Apolitical Californians Into Protesters

Vicki Hall, 70, is professor of gender studies at Sacramento State. She was able to afford her total hip replacement surgery because of Medicare. “If the ACA goes away, people on Medicare will be worse off,\" she says. (Ana B. Ibarra/California Healthline)

Until recently, Paul Smith didn’t consider himself much of an activist. But he woke up hours before sunrise on Saturday to attend his first town hall meeting.

That meeting near Sacramento, organized by his district’s Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Roseville), sparked a peaceful — if large and raucous — protest over Obamacare, the travel ban and other issues. And it drew national headlines.

“I have noticed many of my friends who never speak [about] politics are getting political,” said Smith, a 46-year-old Rocklin, Calif., resident and registered Democrat who works in marketing. He said he did not vote for McClintock.

Once on the political sidelines, Smith now finds himself one of the leading members of a group called Indivisible California-04 — named for McClintock’s 4th Congressional district. It is one of hundreds of groups forming across the country to “resist” the Trump Administration’s agenda, which includes repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Alongside veteran protesters, recently galvanized Californians like Smith are demonstrating, calling lawmakers and taking other measures to make their voices heard. For many, the issues are not partisan. They are personal.

Placer County resident Veronica Blake said her mother had purchased health coverage through Covered California, the state’s Obamacare insurance exchange, just a few months before her death in 2013. She was never able to use the insurance, however, since exchange-based health plans did not become effective until Jan. 1, 2014.

Before that, her mother had not been covered for nearly 10 years. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30s, and although she beat it after a mastectomy, the preexisting condition made her a high-risk patient whom insurers didn’t want to take on, Blake said.

Blake wonders how much longer her mother would have lived if she’d had health insurance all those years. Could her heart problems have been detected and treated earlier?

Blake joined hundreds of others at Saturday’s rally, she said, because she has other family members with illnesses that would be considered preexisting conditions and fears that their coverage could be taken away.

Laurel Ward, who is a nurse in Placer County, said she made her way to McClintock’s town hall event because of what she sees daily in her crowded emergency room.

She also has a younger sister who was able to obtain coverage as a result of the Medi-Cal expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act. “It’s difficult for young people to afford health insurance,” Ward said. “I know, because I went without insurance when I was a student.”

“Without the ACA,” she said. “It’s only going to get worse.”


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