Police arrest activists protesting Trumpcare bill on Capitol Hill

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Health activists woke up as early as 3 a.m. on Monday and headed to Capitol Hill around 6 a.m to protest the latest Republican health care bill before the Senate. The Dirksen Senate office building doors opened at 8 a.m., and hundreds of activists, lined up and ready to to go, rushed in.

The only hearing for the Graham-Cassidy bill was scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. It will be the only hearing for a health bill that’s saw anything but regular order. The bill’s legislative text released two weeks ago was changed and released Monday morning. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has still not released a score on how many Americans stand to lose their health insurance under the bill.  The non-partisan Brookings Institution estimated — based on an earlier version of the bill — that 21 million fewer people will have insurance by 2026.

Activists, hailing from states from Vermont to Colorado, came to protest the unorthodox procedural process and the contents of the bill.

Although tweaked to garner attention from moderate Republicans, the bill, first proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), will still repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion in 2020. The federal government would replace the previous funding stream and instead allow states to create their own block grant program. States — through waiver authority — can also roll back essential health benefits and allow insurers to raise premiums for sick patients or those with pre-existing conditions. Concurrently, starting in 2020, the proposal converts Medicaid — for low-income adults, children, elderly, and disabled — from a program that has open-ended federal financing to one that is limited to a set amount per enrollee.

The wait to get inside the hearing on Monday was largely peaceful. Occasional “kill the bill” chants echoed the Senate chambers. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) came out at one point, and gave activists pizza. “Can’t fight on an empty stomach,” said the senator.

Brendan Ezekiel, a Philidelphia resident and member of the disability activist group ADAPT, flew out the night before. His partner, Latoya, is on a Medicaid waiver that allows her to receive institutionalized care at home. He’s her direct care worker. Medicaid pays his paycheck and her care. He’s been to Washington D.C. a total of nine times since January, protesting the various Republican health bills that continually cut Medicaid.

As 2 p.m. inched closer, as many as 75 Senate police officers lined the protesters. The Senate halls were interspersed with cheers for health care and yells for order. At one point, chants of “Access is a human right” broke out, as activists were informed that there wasn’t enough room for more than 7 people with wheelchairs to attend the hearing.

Just before 2:15 p.m., finance committee chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) adjourned the hearing until several protesters were arrested.


This is story will be updated as the day continues on Monday.



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