July 18, 2017

For Pro-Obamacare Groups, A Wary Reprieve

Article origination WFYI-FM
After months of protesting plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, health care advocates are still concerned about the future legislation. - Tedd Eytan/Flickr

After months of protesting plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, health care advocates are still concerned about the future legislation.

Tedd Eytan/Flickr

Health care advocacy groups are tentatively celebrating news that the Senate’s latest health care bill is dead. But after months of protesting the GOP’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’re still not calling it a victory.  

Teresa Torres of disability rights groups Everybody Counts and ADAPT Indiana said she was on the phone with a friend when she heard the news the health bill had died after the Senate GOP lost two vital votes Monday evening.

“We both whooped!” she says. “We both shouted with joy.”  

Last month, Torres protested the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act at Senator Todd Young’s office. She was with a group of disability rights advocates who were worried the bill’s cuts to Medicaid would threaten access to home-based services and community care.   

However, the two Republican senators, conservatives Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah, who killed the bill by saying they wouldn't support it, were not swayed by the threat of Medicaid cuts.  Instead said the bill didn’t go far enough in repealing certain parts of the healthcare law. 

Torres says that’s still reason for her to worry.

“It’s not so much a victory as it is a reprieve,” she says. “We need to be grateful for that reprieve but we need not assume that it’s done. This was not a turning around of a significant number of people who recognized, 'oh my goodness, what are we doing this is a bad thing!'” 

Anastassia Zinke of the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, another group that had been staging die-ins and protests around the area, agreed with Torres.

“I feel momentarily relieved. I am a little terrified that the Senate is still even talking about having a simple repeal go forward,” she says.

Mitch McConnell’s plan B—to repeal the law without replacing it with a new one—doesn’t appear to have the support it needs to pass. However with Republicans controlling both chambers and the White House, it’s unlikely the issue of an Obamacare repeal will go down without a fight.

Zinke still holds out hope public action can sway legislators.

“I think hearing the stories of local people and understanding the difficult decisions  a person or a parent has to make when choosing between healthcare payment and a food payment….Those stories, in which so many of our senators have heard, of course they move the conscience of all moral people,” she says.

Indiana democratic Senator Joe Donnelly has been an opponent of the bill. Republican Young, an avid critic of the Affordable Care Act, never made his voting intentions known, although he urged bipartisan ACA reform efforts. 

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a reporting collaborative focused on public health.

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