The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed to reach the U.S. House of Representatives Friday, pulled at the last moment by U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump.
The highly scrutinized replacement plan, the American Health Care Act, faced heavy criticism from Democrats and divided the Republican caucus, with both conservative and moderate GOP factions opposed to the bill.
Ryan said to reporters that he and Trump agreed to pull the bill because it didn’t have enough votes to pass.
“I will not sugarcoat this: This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said in a statement.
Rep. David Price, D-N.C., who represents Chapel Hill, spoke against the bill on the House floor Friday, calling the plan misguided and short-sighted.
“In all my time in Congress, I have never seen such a blatant disregard for the best interest of the American people,” Price said. “Twenty-four million hard-working Americans will lose their health coverage.”
Meanwhile in the Triangle, protesters of the AHCA staged a die-in Friday at Duke University, where Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, was speaking at the Health Sector Advisory Council.
Burr called the AHCA “a good first step” when it was released in early March.
The protest, led by the group Protecting Progress in Durham, called on Burr to reject Trump’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“For some people, this will mean life or death,” said Kelly Garvy, one of the organizers of the event.
Dr. Gary Greenberg, the medical director of Urban Ministries of Wake County, a charity clinic serving uninsured low-income patients, spoke at the die-in. He said even under the current Affordable Care Act, many poor people are left uninsured and have no access to medical care except for emergency situations.
“We only cover a fraction of the need,” Greenberg said. “So it strikes me as an injury, (the idea) that charity might take over where the government has let up.”
Greenberg said he hopes services available under the ACA are enhanced, and that they provide for a larger population.
“It’s important to understand, that the intent was never to make it a fluffier program, but just a more comprehensive program and more available program to the patients that find themselves in need of medical attention,” he said.
Sloan Meek, a Durham resident with cerebral palsy, criticized Republican efforts to do away with Medicaid and Medicare.
Meek, who spoke through a computer attached to his wheelchair, said health care allowed him to live a fulfilling and active life.
“This is what my life would be like without Medicaid and Medicare: I would be forced to live out the rest of my life in a hospital bed, in a nursing home or some other kind of institution,” he said.
John Thompson, a resident of Greensboro, spoke about voting Republican his entire life until losing his job and becoming uninsured.
“I got cancer but thank god for Obamacare, it was our lifeline,” he said. “Without it, I would be uninsurable to this day: no diagnostic test, no surgery, no rehab, no hope.”
Thompson said he worked to pay taxes and support his community before he lost his job and got sick.
“But in my hour of need, when my back was against the wall in the richest country in the universe, Sen. Burr, where was your GOP for me?” he said.
“If it was up to you guys, and you could have done to Obamacare then what you’re trying to do now, shoot, I would probably be dead in a grave somewhere.”
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