- Harrison Berry
- Donna Yule spoke at the health care rally May 15.
- Harrison Berry
- A cancer survivor, Lori Burelle said the passage of the American Health Care Act could make health care less affordable should her cancer recur.
"A human right!" the crowd shouted back.
The protesters gathered May 15 to push back against HB 1628, better known as the American Health Care Act of 2017, which cleared the United States House of Representatives May 4 on a 217-213 vote.
One of the congress members who voted in favor of the bill, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), was scheduled to make an appearance at the Boise Centre as a speaker for the third-annual Idaho Healthcare Summit.
According to the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, if signed into law, the AHCA would reduce the number of insured Americans by 14 million in 2018 and 24 million by 2026. The proposed law would also leave it to states to decide whether insurance companies must provide coverage for preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer and even pregnancy—as they are currently under the Affordable Care Act.
Under the AHCA, Medicaid would be funded by a "block grant" mechanism that would put the burden on states to fill a federal Medicaid spending shortfall. The Idaho State Legislature has been reluctant to increase state funding for the program, with the Gem State's Fiscal Year 2017 Medicaid budget $6.2 million lower than even Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposal. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, approximately 270,000 Idahoans access Medicaid benefits—approximately 208,000 of whom are children.
The bill, which is now on its way to be considered by the U.S. Senate, has been opposed by the AARP, while the American Medical Association sent letters expressing its opposition to the AHCA to members of House committees responsible for drafting it.
Lori Burelle, one of the demonstrators at the event Monday, said she was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2015 but, because she had health insurance, she was able to receive surgery and other treatments that have left her cancer-free. The disease, however, could recur any time, and Burelle said passage of the AHCA may affect her access to affordable care.
"The cost for insurance could be prohibitive," she said.
One speaker at the event, Donna Yule, echoed Burelle, saying that because she has just one kidney, passage of the AHCA would price her and many others out of the insurance market "right out of the get-go."
"I get tired of having a theoretical debate about health care being a right," she said. "It's personal to me."
Simpson entered the Boise Centre through a side door, effectively avoiding the demonstrators, who also lambasted remarks made in late April by Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador. At a town hall meeting in Lewiston, he told the crowd, "No, I do not believe that health care is a human right." The line didn't sit well with Evans.
"This is not just a policy issue," she said. "This is a moral issue."