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Local women protest health care law changes

by Bob Watson | January 16, 2017 at 3:03 a.m. | Updated January 18, 2017 at 4:24 p.m.
Four women stage a protest Sunday near Congressman Blaine Lutkemeyer's Jefferson Ctiy office.

In spite of the drizzle and cold weather, a small group of women unhappy with Congress' plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act staged a protest outside U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's office Sunday afternoon.

"At a time when the United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right, the Republicans want obscene tax breaks for the top one-tenth of one percent," protest organizer Sue Gibson said in a news release announcing the demonstration.

In a news release last week, Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth - a long-time opponent of the ACA, often called "Obamacare" - noted he had voted in support of taking the first step to repeal the federal law and "start the process of reforming our nation's failed health-care system."

"Obamacare has failed and the American people have spoken," Luetkemeyer said. "It has failed individuals, families and small businesses across our state and Congress has responded to this failure by taking the first steps to repealing this broken law."

Gibson told the News Tribune Sunday: "Congress voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the night, because they don't want their constituents to know about their dirty deeds.

"So, we're here to tell the citizenry what Congress is doing to destroy their quality of life."

Suzanne Luther said Sunday: "He may be a Republican and I may not agree with his platform, but he is a civil servant - and I think that makes it appropriate for us to be right here, to show him that we are his constituents and this is how we feel about it."

One of the protesters' concerns is that Congress' Republican leadership wants to repeal the ACA without having anything in place to replace it.

In his statement last week, Luetkemeyer said: "The numbers are staggering. Average annual family premiums in the employer-sponsored market have increased by roughly $4,300 and now total more than $18,000 annually and individual premiums are up 27 percent.

"Since 2010, 80 rural hospitals have been forced to close their doors across America and there are many more closures on the horizon."

But, Gibson countered: "The ACA has saved lives, and saved the quality of life for a lot or people who couldn't get insurance coverage before."

She said the rate increases that Luetkemeyer and other health care law opponents cite are "due to the greed of the insurance companies. If the Republicans had stood with the Democrats and approved a single-payer system in the first place, we wouldn't have those problems."

Luetkemeyer said: "Obamacare is a failure and is on the path to destroying health-care in America. House Republicans will not stand by and let this happen.

"(Friday's) vote represents the first step in repealing this law and sets in motion the multi-step process of reforming our health-care system to make it work for all Americans."

But Sunday's protesters want to know why Congressional Republicans have spent years trying to overturn the ACA without having anything to replace it.

"Now they have a chance to really do something about it," Gibson said, "and they've got nothing.

"We need the Affordable Care Act - it saves lives and it improves lives."

In the news release announcing Sunday's demonstration, activist Freda McKee said: "Threats to dismantle the ACA are vindictive. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan is ridiculous. This not only leaves individuals without health care, it affects whole communities.

"To our seniors and families with small children, the loss of health care would be devastating. I am here to stand up for those individuals because the vindictive effort to repeal affects everyone in every state."

The protest came the day before the Martin Luther King federal holiday.

"If you go back to everything (Dr. King) stood for, this is the perfect day to be out here, standing up for what we feel is right," Luther said.

She also noted everybody has a "personal" perspective on health care and the role the government should play in it - and, Sunday's protest was a good thing if "gets people's attention," Luther said, "even if it's just taking pause to think, 'Why am I against this?'"


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