On Friday morning, Ezra Farber was standing in the cold on Cameron Boulevard, holding his own tombstone.
OK, it wasn't a real tombstone but rather a poster board on which Farber had drawn the shape of a tombstone and a sad face with Xs for eyes and written, “My brain tumor was a pre-existing condition.” Farber, who lives in Chapel Hill, survived a severe brain tumor as a teenager. “My continued surviving and thriving as an adult depend on seeing a lot of doctors,” he said.
Farber currently gets health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, which forbids insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. If Barack Obama’s signature health law—passed seven years and one day ago—is repealed, he worries he won’t be able to get the coverage he needs to stay alive.
Farber was among dozens of people who participated in an ACA repeal protest at Duke University Friday morning, as House members began debating the American Health Care Act, the “replace” part of Republican calls to repeal and replace Obamacare. House members were supposed to vote on the bill Thursday, but that vote was delayed, prompting President Donald Trump to issue an ultimatum: pass the AHCA, or Obamacare stays. The AHCA was expected to take place later this evening; early signs don’t look promising for the GOP.
Put on by grassroots group Protecting Progress in Durham, the event included several speakers who would be affected by the repeal of the law, and a four-minute die-in, in which participants lay on the ground between Cameron Boulevard and the JB Hall Hotel, where the Duke Health Sector Advisory Council forum was being held Friday.
Dozens of people join a "die-in" at Duke University on Friday morning, protesting the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the Republican-backed proposal to replace it, the American Health Care Act.
Although the agenda and speaker list for the event are no longer available on its website, organizers of Friday’s die-in got wind that Republican Senator Richard Burr would be a guest and planned the protest to coincide with his eleven a.m. remarks. (Health Care for All NC saved and posted
some details of the agenda, showing Burr and U.S. Representative David Price would be speaking. Price, who spoke against the AHCA on the House floor this morning, joined the event via Google Hangout. An INDY
reporter who asked to listen to Burr’s speech was told by hotel staff that the forum was invitation-only).
“We’re asking you Senator Burr, whether Trumpcare passes today, next week, or next month, please do not play partisan politics with people’s lives,” Kelly Garvy, with Protecting Progress in Durham, said through a loudspeaker.
About twenty-four million people
could lose their health insurance under the proposed AHCA. North Carolinians are expected to see the second-highest premium increases
in the country, with the elderly facing the highest cost burden. Under the plan, billions of dollars in tax cuts would largely benefit wealthier Americans, while cutting Medicaid
“This is a tax cut bill masquerading as health care,” said protester Michael Eisenberg.
Sloan Meek, a twenty-nine-year-old Durham resident with cerebral palsy, told Friday’s crowd that if he lost his health insurance, his “entire family would go bankrupt in a year just to keep me alive.”
“I can’t help but make the assumption that that’s what the Trump health care proposal is trying to do—kill off people with disabilities and who are sick,” Meek said through a computer. “My life and the life of millions of people won’t be sacrificed for your political agenda.”
According to CBS News
, thirty-six House Republicans (as of Friday morning) say they can’t support the bill as is. Price, a Democrat, opposes the AHCA
Burr has called the House proposal
“a good first step toward providing relief from the broken promises, costly mandates, and government bureaucracy created by Obamacare.”
John Thompson, a pro-life, evangelical Christian who “for twenty-eight years voted Republican,” said he signed up for Obamacare after losing his job in 2013. In the year it took him to find a new job, he was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was our life line during my year out of work. In fact, Obamacare saved my life. Without it, I would be uninsurable to this day. No diagnostic tests, not surgery, no rehab, no hope,” Thompson told the crowd Friday. “In my hour of need, when my back was against the wall, in the richest country in the history of the universe, Senator Burr, where was your GOP for me? In fact, if it was up to you guys, and you could have done to Obamacare then what you’re getting ready to do to it today, I’d probably be lying dead in a grave somewhere today.”