In the wake of Republican efforts to unwind the Affordable Care Act while failing to coalesce around a replacement plan, consumers are increasingly concerned that they will lose the coverage and protections they have gained since passage of the ACA. Recent polls have found that 56 percent of U.S. adults are “extremely” or “very” concerned about losing health coverage if Republicans repeal the ACA without a replacement, and overall support of the law has jumped by 6 percent since President Trump’s inauguration.
Since Election Day, there has been a groundswell of action among the public and within our consumer health advocacy community to protect the ACA. Advocates have been lifting the voices of concerned consumers across the country through rallies, letter-writing campaigns, op-eds and story sharing efforts. A telling example of the growing energy behind defending health care coverage was the series of rallies held throughout the country on January 15. Thousands of people gathered in cities and towns from Indianapolis, Indiana to Warren, Michigan to Richmond, Virginia to voice their support for the ACA. In Boston, a diverse coalition of providers, advocates and consumers from across Massachusetts convened at Faneuil Hall to protect the ACA. As medical students held signs such as “Patients over Politics” and “Health Care is a Human Right,” a young woman shared her story about the life-saving care that her mother received thanks to the ACA after being diagnosed with cancer.
As momentum grows, more and more consumers are telling their members of Congress that repealing the law without passing a simultaneous replacement plan that maintains the same coverage and protections as the ACA would turn their lives upside down. In Tennessee, constituents have flooded the inboxes of Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker with over 500 hand-written letters describing how a repeal of the ACA would affect their lives. To support these consumers and continue to grow their grassroots base of support, Tennessee Justice Center has channeled Tennesseans’ concerns by organizing letter-writing parties at people’s homes that are open to all community members. These gatherings, which have multiplied throughout the state, often coincide with the organization’s weekly webinars, where Tennessee Justice Center’s staff provides federal advocacy updates and tips to participants. And the gatherings don’t stop with writing letters: groups that have met each other through the parties are moving forward to take more actions, such as hosting town hall meetings and phone banking.
Advocates in Maine are also elevating consumer concerns around the dismantling of the ACA. During the holiday season, Maine People’s Alliance organized 30 Mainers to visit Senator Susan Collins’ office in Portland to deliver holiday cards asking her to oppose the repeal of the health care law. The holiday cards included consumers’ personal stories highlighting how the ACA has saved or impacted their lives and those of their family members. Activity in the state picked up further thanks to a rally held in Portland on January 29. The multi-issue rally that attracted over a thousand Mainers included a call for Senator Collins to oppose the repeal of the ACA. Advocates have extended an invitation to Senator Collins to attend a town hall-style meeting planned to take place during the congressional recess for President’s Day, when members of Congress will be home in their states and districts.
Key Time for Action! Congressional Recess: February 20-24
In the next few weeks, Congress will deliberate on the language for the first budget reconciliation bill, which could contain language that would repeal major provisions of the ACA. Within this timeframe, members of Congress will be returning to their home districts for the President’s Day recess from February 20 to 24, providing a crucial window to make the concerns of consumers loud and clear to their policymakers.
There are a number of key activities that advocates can organize during this critical time. Set up meetings with constituents and members of Congress –specifically senators– at their in-district offices. Activate your base by organizing phone banks and making targeted calls. Organize consumers to send their members of Congress postcards or Valentine’s Day-themed cards. Continue to collect stories. Organize high visibility rallies and events, as well as petition drives. In all of these activities, be sure to engage the media.
The outpouring of stories and actions taken to defend the ACA in recent weeks demonstrates that consumers are raising their voices to be heard loud and clear. This momentum, coupled with the timing of the President’s Day recess, provides advocates a pivotal opportunity to organize and activate supporters. Lawmakers only need to open their doors and listen.