When Renee Thornton had cancer, she did not know how she could afford the steep medical bills without the Affordable Care Act. She shared her story with a crowd of Obamacare supporters Saturday afternoon.
“The ACA paid out three hundred thousand dollars to save my life,” she told more than 100 ACA supporters at Currie Park in West Palm Beach. “I don’t know enough to get into the details of the ACA. All I know is what it brought to my house: peace of mind. It gave my husband enough to take care of me — physically, mentally and emotionally.”
“Thanks Obama!” yelled Mark Beaumont, a Jupiter sign-maker who is part of Palm Beach Indivisibles, which hosted the pro-ACA rally. This protest was part of nationwide rallies called upon by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to defend the health insurance law.
Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel urged the crowd to resist the agenda of Republican President Donald Trump and his party. “Do not let right-wing authoritarians take over,” she said. Republicans command the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
When asked what Democrats in those chambers can do to block Obamacare repeal, Frankel said it was up to “the people.” “It’s loud voices like this” who demand their Republican members of Congress to oppose repeal.
Members of the right-wing Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010 protested Congressional Democrats’ public meetings, demanding they vote against the Affordable Care Act. That was when Democrats held majorities in both houses of Congress.
Now the situation is reversed. Republicans hold Congress and the White House. But members of the left-wing Indivisible movement are crashing public meetings of Republican legislators demanding they oppose repealing Obamacare.
But Democrats passed the ACA despite Tea Party protests. When asked if ACA supporters should worry about the GOP repealing the health law despite Indivisible protests, Frankel had a warning for Republicans.
“Democrats had [nearly] sixty seats, and Republicans remember that,” she said, referring to how the Democrats lost the House in the 2010 election, and continually lost Senate seats until they became a minority in that chamber after the 2014 elections. “Any Republican who votes to repeal will be punished at the polls,” Frankel warned. The ACA is popular with a majority of Americans who have an opinion on it, polls show.
Former health insurance manager Amanda Kopacz fiercely defended Obamacare before Frankel spoke. She attacked what is known of Republicans’ replacement plan for the ACA. “Their plan is health savings accounts,” she said. “I worked in health insurance. Health savings account do not work.”
She later explained in an interview what she has seen in her time managing health insurance as a human resources manager. Workers can put money from their paychecks into these accounts before tax is taken out, but it is not enough for most people, she said. “Most people might have around two thousand dollars in them. But most people don’t have enough money in them, for say, a one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollar emergency,” she explained.
While Kopacz acknowledged that insurance policyholders have felt pain from rising premiums under the ACA, she wants Congress to reform the law instead of scrapping it. “Even if we repeal, we can’t go back to what we had,” she said. “The industry doesn’t exist.”
Health insurance companies drastically changed after Obamacare passed. They offered policies to people more prone to become ill, expecting the healthy to be forced to buy insurance to help pay for them. Trump in January signed an executive order allowing the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to choose how strongly to enforce a law mandating many adults to buy health insurance.
Kopacz said she started getting involved in anti-Trump activism when she went to the Palm Beach Gardens office of Republican Senator Marco Rubio and asked for a meeting. She wanted to ask him for details on the GOP’s ACA replacement. She got no reply. When she posted on Facebook about this, more people started coming with her each Tuesday to that office. Unlike other Floridian Republican members of Congress, Rubio has yet to hold a town hall meeting.
Kopacz still goes to Rubio’s office, though she said she hopes Palm Beach Indivisibles picks up the cause.