January 9 2017

kern-residents-protest-repeal-of-acaAbout a hundred protesters gathered outside of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office to advocate against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare” earlier this week.

Activists, priests, constituents of McCarthy’s district, and even a longtime registered nurse all spoke against repealing the ACA without having a concrete replacement. In California alone, there are 3.5 million people who have qualified for Medi-Cal who didn’t qualify before the ACA, which is now being threatened.

Health Access California Organizing Director Nancy Gomez spoke on what a repeal would mean for people living in the United States. “[It] would put millions of people’s lives in danger, and it’s irresponsible. These are not just numbers and political ideology that we’re talking about. We’re talking about people who are ill.”

Aiming to bring a face to the issue, Julio Otero one of McCarthy’s constituents talked about her own personal experience. Speaking with an oxygen tank by her side, Julie spoke about how imporatnt Medi-Cal is to her.

“Medi-Cal saved my life. I’m one of the millions of low income Californians who became eligible for coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. I am battling 2 non-curable diseases. I have pulmonary hypertension and chronic COPD. I take more than 17 pills a day. 3 inhalers, and I rely on oxygen 24 hours a day, to save my life. I work and contribute to my community. I deserve the right to afford my healthcare”.

According to NPR two counties represented by McCarthy are among the most heavily dependent on Medi-Cal in the state. “In Tulare county 55 percent of residents are on Medi-Cal. Here in Kern County it’s 45 percent,” Gomez said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Kern County has an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, more than double the Nation’s rate of 4.6 percent. In a place where many struggle to make ends meet, the repeal of the Affordable health care would affect many residents drastically. Carmen Morales, a nurse practitioner from Kern echoed the group’s message.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the Affordable Care Act improves the lives of patients. Working on the frontlines, I am very familiar with the suffering that stems from the lack of access to affordable health care coverage.”

Although there was no counter protest taking place, many have criticized the ACA for being unaffordable. However, KQED News reports that “Despite the Affordable Care Act’s rising prices, decreased insurer participation and a vigorous political threat to its survival, consumer enrollment for 2017 is outpacing last year’s, according to new federal data and reports from state officials around the country”.

Although the protesters encouraged McCarthy to come out and see the faces of his constituents, they were met with locked doors, as staff members inside refused to open the door. Still the group was not discouraged.

Dolores Huerta lead the group in chants “Who’s got the power?… We’ve got the power! What kind of power?…People Power!” the crowd responded. Frustrated that the doors were locked the crowd also began to chant “Shame on you!”

The group closed by attempting to deliver Christmas cards signed by constituents to Representative McCarthy.  Gomez concluded the event.

“We leave with this happy, healthy, New Year’s message: The people of Bakersfield and your constituents are counting on you.”

This first appeared in the youth media publication South Kern Sol. Click here to read it there.