Obamacare enrollees and activists cautiously celebrate their health victory

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The ACA has seen too many near-death experiences.

Credit: Amanda Gomez/ThinkProgress

The Senate voted against the Republican health bill dubbed “skinny repeal” early Friday morning, halting efforts to annul the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Supporters of the current health care aren’t convinced and will continue to forge ahead by protesting amid their celebrating.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked the Senate to move on, after a late Friday defeatist speech. He did place the House-passed health bill, the American Health Care Act, back on the legislative calendar, which means the Senate could return to the bill this calendar year. (Caveat: If the Senate looks to pass tax reform through reconciliation this calendar year, Republican leadership could not pass their health care bill with a simple majority.)

President Donald Trump has said he’ll let the ACA implode. He can easily undercut the current health care, and already has. The president’s comments frustrated many relieved health activists and ACA enrollees, who’ve been fighting nonstop against Republican repeal attempts for the last six months. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested on ABC’s This Week that he may approve waivers to forgo the insurance mandate because it drives up costs. (Insurance companies have argued the opposite — that the individual mandate keeps premium costs down.) Recent statements by Trump, Price, and other Republicans have affirmed the fight’s not over.

The ACA’s resilience is only as good as its guard, said activists. Several of them spoke to ThinkProgress this week about how their efforts will continue.

Obamacare Repeal Tracker: Senate effort to repeal Obamacare fails

Jim Cooke administers his wife Susan Mooring’s eye drops. He’s been her rock since she’s began losing her vision in 2013. Credit: Amanda Gomez/ThinkProgress

Obamacare enrollee Susan Mooring will continue to make Senate calls.

“I feel like this is round seven in a 15-round fight,” said Susan Mooring.

Susan Mooring awoke to the news Friday morning that the Republican health bill had been killed overnight. Her exclamation ended almost abruptly when she realized this wouldn’t be the end. The ACA’s near-death experiences are too many and too fresh.

“I would be blind without the Affordable Care Act.”

Susan is mostly blind. She didn’t catch glaucoma early enough because she was uninsured most of her life, and forwent the expensive treatment. When she noticed her regenerating lost vision, Susan sought insurance to help pay for treatment, but Social Security denied her disability claim for having worked.

Susan gained insurance through Medicaid expansion during the spring of 2014; Maryland expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013.

“I would be blind without the Affordable Care Act,” said Susan. “Granted I cannot see very well, and I’m severely handicapped by most people’s standards. But the difference from what I could see and being completely blind: It’s night and day.”

As soon as she got her Medicaid card, she began getting care at Johns Hopkins. Her glaucoma specialist immediately subscribed her three different eye drops (which would have been nearly $100 each without insurance). This lowered her eye pressure to an acceptable level in January 2014. A year later she had the first of five eye surgeries — all at no cost to her. Her insurance also covers her mental health counseling; Susan says the experience hasn’t been physically painful but has been mentally strenuous.

Her vision has been fairly stable since undergoing treatment. Insurance affords her that opportunity. She’ll continue to fight for it, she says.

Obamacare enrollee and activist Xena Grandichelli continues to strategize.

Xena Grandichelli woke up Thursday morning at 4 a.m. and got ready to protest. She participated in three different protests that day, before the big Senate health vote. Credit: Amanda Gomez/ThinkProgress

On Friday morning, Xena and other activists went to the offices of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ), and gave staffers bouquets of flowers. Their senators killed the bill.

Xena had bused about 15 times from New York City to Washington, D.C. over the last two months to protest the Republican health bill. She was happy Friday that she wasn’t thrown out of the GOP offices this time around.

Xena is a transgender veteran on Medicaid. She qualified for Medicaid when New York expanded eligibility in 2012. She has a host of medical problems she developed after serving in the Iraq War. Even with her bad knee — for which Medicaid has covered multiple surgeries — she’s staged protests, sit-ins, and marches around Washington, D.C. since January.

After returning to New York Friday afternoon, Xena said she’d be celebrating with her team that they had “pulled this thing off.” But not for long. She knew Republicans aren’t going to let up.

“We are planning just as they are,” said Xena.

“Little Lobbyists” continue to march.

Little Lobbyists at the “Our Lives on the Line” rally in Washington D.C. (Left) ACA beneficiary Timmy Morrison waves rally sign. (Right) Medicaid beneficiary Xiomara Hung waves flag at rally. Credit: Amanda Gomez/ThinkProgress

Little Lobbyist Timmy Morrison requires a host of medical attention. The ACA provision outlawing so-called “lifetime limits” relieves Timmy’s mother Michelle of worry. Prior to the ACA, her employee-based insurance plan could have set a dollar limit for Timmy’s covered benefits.

Little Lobbyist Xiomara Hung had spent 169 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. She’s doing great now despite that because her mother Elena has Medicaid insurance. It pays for her various medical treatments.

Michelle and Elena told ThinkProgress they “immediately cried tears of relief” Friday early morning. They didn’t leave Capitol Hill until 3 a.m. By that point, they’d visited all 101 offices and met with 35 staffers. They’d lost count of how many times they’d been to Capitol Hill in total. Their visits will likely continue with the President still threatening ACA.

“He doesn’t understand what this is,” said Michelle of President Trump. “[It’s frustrating] that he would deliberately sabotage [the health care system] that keeps these kids alive.”

Saturday evening, the children activists group “Little Lobbyists” marched to the White House. They said they’d continue to protect their health care from future threats.

“We are here, and we’ll be watching what happens to see what our next move is.” said Michelle.

Obamacare enrollees and activists cautiously celebrate their health victory was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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