Hundreds attend pro-Obamacare vigil in Spokane park
March 18, 2017 Updated Sat., March 18, 2017 at 8:56 p.m.
Fuse organizer Jim Dawson addresses a crowd at a vigil in support of the Affordable Care Act on March 18, 2017. (Rachel Alexander / The Spokesman-Review)
Kandi Quasne would be disabled without medication that costs $3,900 per month.
Quasne, a dressmaker and seamstress who owns Amazing Alterations, began having severe pain in her hands and fatigue in 2014. As a small business owner, she hadn’t been able to afford health insurance for several years, but she qualified for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act.
She shared her story Saturday evening at a vigil held in Cowley Park, where several hundred people gathered to protest Congressional Republican plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act.
Before she got care, Quasne’s hands hurt so badly she couldn’t chop vegetables or do the work she loved altering wedding and prom dresses. Because she had insurance, she was able to find a doctor, get diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and find a medication that worked for her. She’s worried the new Republican plan would leave her without the subsidy she needs to get her insurance.
“I want to be able to continue contributing to society,” she said. “I can’t do that without healthcare.”
Quasne was one of seven Spokane residents at the vigil who shared personal stories about the impact the Affordable Care Act has had on their lives.
The event was organized by the Hear Our Voices coalition, created by a mix of union and progressive advocacy groups in Washington. Similar vigils were held in Seattle, Issaquah, Vancouver, Yakima and Wenatchee.
Attendees objected to many provisions of the Republican plan, which they derisively referred to as “Trumpcare,” and eventually “Trump don’t care” over the course of the evening. Some held signs criticizing Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for her support of the bill.
“It seems to me that our elected officials, namely Cathy McMorris Rodgers, aren’t listening to us,” said Michelle Hiseley, a nurse at Eastern State Hospital. She said President Donald Trump should keep his campaign promise that no one would lose coverage under a Republican healthcare plan.
The Republican-backed bill, which Trump supports, would scrap a mandate requiring most people to buy health insurance, replacing it with a system of tax credits that vary based on age, rather than income. It would cut Medicaid funding to states and roll back the expansion that allowed many people to get insurance under Obamacare. It would also cut regulations requiring private health insurance plans to cover mental health care and substance abuse treatment.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would result in 24 million fewer people having health insurance over the next decade while reducing the federal deficit by $337 billion.
As dark fell in the park, people held small plastic candles and pasted photos of loved ones on a memorial wall. The wall, outlined in white lights, shared stories of people who have benefited from healthcare under the Affordable Care Act and people who died from a lack of access to health care.
Sara Letellier, who works with clients at Pioneer Human Services, said she’s among the people who have gotten help thanks to Obamacare’s coverage of treatment for addiction and mental illness. She’s one year sober and on a treatment plan for bipolar disorder because she was able to get insurance. Now, she works with clients who struggle with the same challenges.
“I have gotten a chance to reclaim my life. I am a functioning member of our society,” she said.
Letellier finished her speech speaking directly to Trump and McMorris Rodgers.
“Your support of repealing the Affordable Care Act equivocates to looking me in the eye, shaking my hand and telling me my life doesn’t matter,” she said.
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