Armed with colorful posters, pussy hats and chants, over 200 Connecticut residents rallied on the New Haven Green on Saturday to protest Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Organized by Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services employee Danny Stone, the health care rally was one of many parallel events held across the country in response to a call to action from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The New Haven rally featured a diverse set of speakers, including local politicians and representatives from community groups and Yale-affiliated organizations.
Earlier this month, Sanders and Schumer called for nationwide health care rallies to take place on Feb. 25, encouraging their Democratic colleagues to show their support for the ACA during the congressional recess. State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., spoke at the rally, promising constituents that they would continue to fight for the ACA at both the state and national level. After the rally concluded, Blumenthal also hosted a town hall at Wilbur Cross High School.
Entering the Green to chants of “Rosa! Rosa! Rosa!”, DeLauro said that, of the votes she has cast as a representative, her vote for the ACA made her the proudest. Looking back at some of the most successful aspects of the ACA, she emphasized the transformative nature of the policy.
“No more would there be lifetime limits,” DeLauro said. “No more could women be charged 48 percent more for their health insurance or be discriminated against because they were women. No more would there be discrimination against those of us who have preexisting conditions.”
DeLauro mentioned that the G.O.P. plan — a draft of which was obtained by Politico last Friday — would repeal the ACA’s Medicare taxes. Affecting only individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples with incomes over $250,000, these taxes required that these groups pay a 0.9 percent Hospital Insurance tax on earnings above the prescribed amounts and 3.8 percent Medicare tax on investment and unearned income like capital gains, dividends and royalties.
With the ACA repeal, these individuals would no longer be responsible for the tax, earning a net total of roughly $2.8 billion in tax cuts and roughly $28 billion over ten years if the policy is sustained.
Nancy Stanwood, reproductive health advocate and an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Yale School of Medicine, also spoke at the event. Stanwood highlighted the fact that, for young women of reproductive age in the United States, contraception is instrumental in preventing not just unplanned pregnancies, but also life-threatening situations for those who cannot bring a pregnancy to term or who are in abusive relationships.
Stone, an English instructor for IRIS, said that one in 10 Americans would lose their health insurance if the ACA were repealed, adding that 200,000 people in Connecticut are insured under the ACA as part of the new provisions for Medicaid.
“I’m passionate about this issue because I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege,” Stone told the News. “Because we have health, we need health care — this is not a political issue and it should not be controversial.”
Stone organized the rally with the help of the Yale Healthcare Coalition, a group of Yale medical students who are part of the national #ProtectOurPatients campaign, a grassroots movement of future health care professionals who oppose the repeal of the ACA.
During the rally, members of the YHC, outfitted in white coats and neon signs, riled up the crowd with chants of “care not chaos,” a reference to the #CareNotChaos campaign organized by #ProtectOurPatients last week.
“We can really see the effects of local energy and how it’s impacting what’s happening with the ACA,” Julie Berk-Krauss MED ’18, a member of the YHC, told the News. “We’re seeing Republicans getting cold feet, we’re seeing a lot of pressure in town halls — people are getting really mobilized and fighting for something that they feel very passionately about.”
Priscilla Wang MED ’17, another YHC member, noted that the rally and #CareNotChaos Week of Action were timed to coincide with the congressional February recess, a strategic move that allows constituents to interact with representatives returning to their home states.
Earlier last week, the YHC and #ProtectOurPatients spearheaded other call-to-action events in New Haven, including a session on writing ACA op-eds at the Yale School of Medicine and a vigil for victims of health care inequality at Quinnipiac University.
Blumenthal concluded Saturday’s rally by urging protesters to not only continue organizing against the plan, but also bringing other people who might not be as involved or as informed into the fold as well.
“We need to get out and organize, galvanize and mobilize all of those people who yet do not understand that they are going to be denied basic health care if we allow the Trump administration to bait and switch the American public,” he said.
The first congressional recess of the 115th Congress takes place the week of Feb. 18–26.
Correction, Feb. 27: An earlier version of this story misstated that the rally was organized by Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services when in fact it was organized by an IRIS employee, Danny Stone.