Sen. Merkley and Rep. DeFazio urge support for Obamacare during Lane Community College rally

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio called for Oregonians to protect the Affordable Care Act on Saturday, responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to replace it.

The two Democrat legislators, representing Oregon in congress, spoke to a crowd of around 300 supporters at Lane Community College. Merkley and DeFazio talked about legislation they will introduce to improve the ACA, and how supporters can help them in their efforts to preserve it.

“If you’ve ever considered running for school board, for city council, for county commissioner, for state representative, get involved,” said Sen. Merkley. “Do it now, or help someone run. Let’s sustain this energy, restore our nation and put our nation back on track.”

DeFazio spoke during the rally about the uncertainty around the ACA’s future. He mentioned that some Republicans in Congress, who initially called for the law to be “repealed” and then “replaced,” are softening their rhetoric. DeFazio told supporters he believes that this is because of rallies that proponents of the ACA put on leading up to President Trump’s inauguration.

“I was hearing ‘repeal,’ ‘repeal and replace,’ of course they’ve had seven years and they’ve not gotten a replacement, and now, they’ve kind of started saying, ‘Well, maybe repair?’” DeFazio said. “Okay. I’m on board with that. Let’s make the ACA better.”

DeFazio talked about past legislation he supported to reform the nation’s healthcare system. When the ACA was being drafted in 2010 by Democrats in the House of Representatives, he advocated for national exchanges — places to shop for health insurance plans —  and a national not-for-profit plan, where health insurance company shareholders do not receive profits from healthcare recipients.

DeFazio also introduced a provision to discard antitrust immunity for the health insurance industry. Both provisions were included in the bill that the House of Representatives passed. However, Republican senators removed them before the bill, which would become the ACA, passed in Senate. DeFazio said at the rally that he will re-introduce these initiatives as his Republican colleagues, controlling the House majority, work out alternatives to the ACA.

The Oregon plan

More than 400,000 Oregonians are covered by the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. And more than 100,000 have gained access through health exchanges.

“That’s half a million Oregonians,” Sen. Merkley told the crowd about OHP’s coverage. “If they were to form a line and hold hands from West to East, from the Pacific Ocean, they would stretch all the way to Idaho.”

Rep. Defazio said that at President Trump’s upcoming State of the Union address he will leave an empty seat as his guest, representing those in his district, which includes Eugene and Springfield, who will die and go bankrupt if the Republicans repeal the ACA.

A testimonial from Louis Prevost, a Eugene resident and homecare worker, was read during the rally. Prevost said that, without having insurance through the ACA, she would have no way to be diagnosed and be treated for cancer. With insurance, Prevost was able to visit a primary care physician and receive tests to find out she had stage three breast cancer. She said that, without insurance, her tests would have cost $4,000 to $6,000.

“There is no way that I could have afforded one test, much less the treatment that followed,” Prevost said. “It’s simple, without the ACA, I would have no way to fight my cancer. I would be dying.”

During the rally, Sen. Merkley told the audience to send an email to [email protected] and type “I’m in.” Merkley’s staff will then send emails to keep supporters informed about similar rallies and share news on their efforts to preserve ACA.

Sen. Merkley told the Emerald that it is important for college students to use any associations they have, particularly in ‘red states’ to increase support for the ACA. “Have your associations weigh in on Congress,” he said, “And contact your friends and relatives in other states and ask them to crank up the pressure.”

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

If you got a tip for me on an issue you feel I should be covering, don't hesitate to leave me an email ([email protected]).