BOWIE – Just five days before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, Marylanders rallied in opposition to one of his most ardent campaign promises: to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Approximately 1,500 people came out to Bowie State University on Sunday to take part in a rally to show opposition to repeal of ACA, […]
BOWIE – Just five days before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, Marylanders rallied in opposition to one of his most ardent campaign promises: to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Approximately 1,500 people came out to Bowie State University on Sunday to take part in a rally to show opposition to repeal of ACA, colloquially known as Obamacare. The main ballroom and overflow room were both filled, with members of the crowd gathering on the steps outside the student center to make their opinion known and hear from speakers like Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who organized the event, Congressmen Anthony Brown (D-4), Steny Hoyer (D-5), John Delaney (D-6) and John Sarbanes (D-3), and county executives from several counties, as well as Marylanders who have benefitted from the ACA.
“I think this was a great success, a lot of energy and enthusiasm packed into two big rooms and outside. People are determined to win this fight to prevent Donald Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill from turning back the clock on progress,” Van Hollen said.
Deanna Miano, a Montgomery County resident who attended the rally, said she agreed with the speakers about the importance of saving ACA and found the personal testimonies about the law’s benefits “very moving.”
“I agree with everything that’s been said about it (healthcare) being accessible to everyone, especially those with preexisting conditions,” Miano said. “If it is repealed it’s going to affect so many of us. Healthcare is a quality of life issue and it’s important to be able to offer that to relatives, family and friends.”
Van Hollen told the crowd that 22 million more Americans have insurance because of the ACA, which he said slows premium increases because those newly-insured people no longer use expensive emergency room care and drive up costs.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III said that dynamic, which existed before ACA was enacted, had very real, negative consequences for the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
“The reason that hospital was going down was because the emergency room was used as the primary care physician. So the uninsured and underinsured were dragging the hospital down,” he said.
However, with the county’s uninsured rate cut in half under the law, Baker said the state has approved a new, regional medical center for the county.
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, Prince George’s County is going to build a new, not a Prince George’s County hospital, but a new regional hospital. That is because of the Affordable Care Act,” Baker said. “The rally cry is not only to make sure that every woman, man and child in this great country, in this great state, has healthcare, but to make sure that we keep it so that we can build that great hospital.”
Brown had a similar message about the ACA’s benefits for the county, and the consequences if it is repealed.
“We are going to see those hospitals reduce services. They are going to lay off doctors, nurses and technicians. Our local economy will weaken. That regional medical center – I’m going to put a finer point on it than the county executive did – it will not come to Prince George’s County if they repeal the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
ACA also sets minimum standards for approved plans sold through the marketplace, which include free preventative screenings and woman’s care visits. There are also provisions to prevent people from being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Marylander Ola Ojewumi, a 26-year-old survivor of a heart and kidney transplant and then cancer, said those provisions allowed her to get treatment.
“The Affordable Care Act literally saved my life. The Affordable Care Act means people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied healthcare. It also meant that I could stay on my parents’ insurance until I turned 26,” Ojewumi said. “Donald Trump and others that support the repeal of the ACA don’t understand what it means to have medication that costs $2,000 for 30 days.”
Dr. Leana Wen, the commissioner of health for Baltimore City, said she has patients with stories like Ojewumi’s, and those who had to choose between paying bills or paying for prescriptions before the ACA.
“I’m not here as a Republican or a Democrat. I am not an elected official. I’m here as a doctor,” she said. “I’m here because the ACA is not a policy to me. It is about my patients and people’s lives.”
Others speaking at the rally, including Hoyer and new U.S. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-8), did have a more partisan take on the issue. Democrats, in general, favor the ACA while most Republicans want the law repealed. Hoyer, the House Minority Whip and a leader in the Democratic Party, pointed out that Republicans had opposed the law from the beginning.
“When the Democrats in the House and Senate were working to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009, a lot of people showed up at the Capitol and called themselves the ‘Tea Party.’ Well, I call them the ‘Me Party.’ And I call all of us Democrats the ‘We Party,’” he said. “We are in this together. We care about our fellow citizens. We care about seniors, and young people, and those with disabilities, and those with pre-existing conditions, and those who have health care costs that they can’t afford.”
The rally was part of a “National Day of Action” organized by Congressional Democrats, who held similar events across the country to generate support for saving the ACA from repeal. Van Hollen urged members of the crowd to call Republican senators to urge them to vote against repeal.
Baker also urged continuing action and activism from those in attendance.
“This really is us talking to the choir. You’re the choir, you get it. What we have to do when we leave this place is to make sure the world hears our voice, to make sure they understand how important this is,” Baker said. “That means we’re going to have to work – to organize, to march, to protest, to make our voices heard. That’s what we need to do.”
Van Hollen said that type of action is the only way to save the law.
“I believe, if we can help mobilize people in enough states, that we can win this fight,” he said.