More than one hundred members of 1199SEIU from New York, Massachusetts and the Maryland/DC Region were in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 5 and 6 to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the need keep in place the vital patient protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – even if the law is repealed by Congress. The effort was spearheaded by the Healthcare Education Project, a community-based partnership of 1199SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association.
“Whatever we have to do, we will do it,” said Anayansi Clarke, a home health aide with Staten Island, NY’s Stella Orton Agency. “We are willing to put our boots on to do whatever we have to.”
Congress has vowed to see through the repeal of the ACA (Obamacare) immediately after his January inauguration. The move would culminate more than 60 attempts by right wing Congressional Republicans to throw out President Obama’s signature achievement. Since the ACA’s 2010 passage, more than 22 million people have become insured; now in place are requirements for non-discriminatory pricing practices in women’s healthcare, protections for discrimination against pre-existing conditions and allowances for young people to stay on their parents’ insurance. These provisions, combined with other aspects of the law, have created a safety net that yielded benefits for patients and providers.
“Since people are able to have insurance now they feel better about themselves,” said Debora Jeje, a patient care coordinator at United Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “They come into the hospital and they don’t have to worry that they won’t be seen or that they can’t afford to see a doctor,”
Jeje was one of several workers who participated in a press conference around the event; workers shared with reporters their experience with the ACA and concerns about its repeal. Without a proper replacement millions currently protected under it will be thrown into chaos, she said.
In addition to 1199ers, members who attended the lobby sessions against repealing the ACA without a replacement included members of United Healthcare Workers West, SEIU Chicago, The Doctors’ Council, The Committee of Interns and Residents and workers from other SEIU locals around the country. Meetings with legislators also included discussions about the millions of dollars in critical funding hospitals stand to lose should the repeal move ahead without an adequate replacement and preserving funds for graduate medical education, which ensure availability of training programs for doctors who work throughout the healthcare system.
Andrea Jenkins, a medical assistant at Medisys Jamaica in Queens, NY, was among the members who met with Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY 6 District). She discussed the importance of preserving programs for chronic diseases, like diabetes.
“Before the ACA there were hundreds of people who couldn’t do anything for themselves and now we see them taking care of themselves,” Jenkins told Meng, emphasizing the gravity of losing the ACA. “My concern is that now they will die in their homes.”