This weekend approximately 400 people braved the heat in downtown Boise to protest the Senate healthcare bill. The march from the Capitol to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial was followed by a rally with powerful Idaho voices.
Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg read an open letter from Mayor David Bieter to Idaho’s congressional delegation, urging them not to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or cut Medicaid.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, assured the crowd that if she had not had the benefit of good health insurance when she suffered serious burns from a kitchen grease fire earlier this year, her medical bills could have caused her to lose her home. “America is at risk of going down a terrible path that will lead to immense suffering for millions of people,” Rubel said. “Please, put our whole federal delegation on your speed dial and call them every day until they see reason.”

Marty Durand, a Boisean who recently received a kidney transplant, shared her story. She explained that the Senate bill, if passed, would take away the ACA prohibition on lifetime caps for insurance coverage. This would mean that patients like Durand could be dropped by their health insurance providers once their care hit a lifetime expenditure limit. If this were to happen, Durand would likely lose her insurance. She would no longer be able to afford the anti-rejection drugs that she needs, without which her body would reject her new kidney, leaving her sick, disabled, and back on dialysis for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, Donna Yule, the generous friend who donated a kidney to Durand would be rewarded by being unable to get health insurance under the Senate bill herself, since having only one kidney would be a pre-existing condition.

“What about people who have serious medical conditions that need ongoing treatment?” Durand asked. “What does this mean for us? It means bankruptcy, it means sickness, and it means slow death.”

Boise City Council candidate Lisa Sánchez gave voice to the unique challenges faced by low income working Idahoans related to healthcare. She shared the stories of her mother and grandmother, who worked long hours and could not afford health insurance, despite having serious medical conditions.

Sánchez  spoke about the rigorous physical labor that those who work in Idaho’s agriculture industry engage in day after day, year after year. She noted that agricultural workers are exposed to the elements and to agricultural chemicals, and they perform labor that requires being bent over for hours at a time. All of those things have an impact on health, and health insurance is often out of reach. “What I am realizing that we are missing from our elected officials is a sense of empathy. Folks are suffering, and they are not lazy.”

Rev. Sara LaWall of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship concluded the rally by contending that healthcare is an ethical and moral issue. “This bill puts lives on the line,” she said. “People will die. Children will die. Parents will die. The elderly and the sick and the most vulnerable among us will die as a result of the choices made by those in power. This is a moral crisis.” After noting that the Senate healthcare proposal would result in 22 million people losing their health insurance and cut Medicaid funding, while simultaneously giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, LaWall said, “that sounds a lot like taking from the poor to give to the rich. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”  

See our live stream of the entire rally here.

A tremendous thank you to those who organized or participated in this weekend’s event. It was inspiring and energizing. There’s still time to stop the Senate healthcare bill from going into law, but we have to keep up the pressure on Senators Crapo and Risch. Now more than ever, call them every day. Put their numbers on speed dial. Ask them to protect our healthcare, and tell them that Medicaid matters in Idaho.

Crapo: (202) 224-6142

Risch: (202) 224-2752