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Protesters die-in for health care

  • Protesters hold cardboard tombstones Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Pulaski Park in Northampton to protest the American Health Care Act. GAZETTE STAFF—Jack Suntrup

  • Protesters hold cardboard tombstones Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Pulaski Park in Northampton to protest the American Health Care Act. GAZETTE STAFF—Jack Suntrup

  • Protesters hold cardboard tombstones Sunday at Pulaski Park in Northampton to protest the American Health Care Act. GAZETTE STAFF/JACK SUNTRUP



@JackSuntrup
Sunday, June 04, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Despite recent news cycles not dominated by health care — think Russia, “covfefe” and climate change — the fate of the American health system remains very much an issue.

On Sunday, about 60 activists held a “die-in” at Pulaski Park in Northampton, part of nationwide demonstrations organizers say took place in cities from Boston to Honolulu. This die-in was organized by members of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March.

“Every day there’s something new and riveting,” said Rachel Maiore, 48, of Northampton, one of the organizers. “We need to keep the pressure on this (issue).”

The activists held cardboard tombstones under light rain. One said “Obamacared Why don’t U?” Another said “Killed by the GOP.” Someone played taps on a trumpet and the protesters lay down on the grass.

The whole protest was over in about 20 minutes.

The die-in came on the heels of recent scoring from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which predicted the American Health Care Act would create 23 million more uninsured Americans by 2026.

The budget office also said the legislation would lower premiums for younger adults by allowing them sparser coverage, and would saddle unhealthy, older and poorer consumers with exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.

The measure advanced through the Republican-controlled House on May 4 by a razor-thin margin after a false start earlier this year.

The legislation will likely change in the Senate, where several GOP senators have raised concerns about the millions of people expected to be uninsured and changes to Medicaid — which include halting extra federal funds for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, and giving fixed sums of money to states each year instead of open-ended payments.

The legislation means an $834 billion cut over the next decade to Medicaid, which would produce 14 million, or 17 percent, fewer Medicaid recipients than projected, according to the CBO.

“The pressure's really about that — making it politically toxic for a politician to pick this up,” said Maiore, who is a stay-at-home mom and only got involved in politics after President Trump’s inauguration.

Making the measure unpalatable to Massachusetts representatives will not be a challenge. Both of the state’s U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, have voiced opposition to the legislation, and U.S. Reps. James McGovern, D-Worcester, and Richard Neal, D-Springfield, voted against the measure in the House.

Another issue, said Deborah Levenson, 65, of Hadley, is whether the Massachusetts Legislature will approve legislation creating a single-payer health care program in the state.

“The financing for this system is doable,” she told the crowd. “It is spelled out in the legislation that is currently pending in Massachusetts.”

She said a “reasonable and equitable” payroll tax would lower costs and expand coverage.

She chided the Legislature, controlled by Democrats, for failing to approve single-payer in years past.

The state Democratic Party at its convention Saturday approved a plank in its platform calling for single-payer.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.