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'Make America Sick Again' rally in Colorado Springs protests GOP health care bill

By: Chhun Sun
May 7, 2017 Updated: May 8, 2017 at 7:42 am
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A local substitute teacher who only wanted to be known as J.P. has been a diabetic since she was 2 years old. She says she is able to afford her medical supplies because she is on the Affordable Care Act. She used syringes and diabetic testing strips to spell out her feelings about the new healthcare act passed in the House of Representatives on Sunday, May 7, 2017. About 200 people gathered to protest the new healthcare act passed by the House of Representatives that will repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. After the rally, the protesters marched to Sen. Cory Gardner's office for a final rally to encourage him to vote against the act. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

In front of about 200 people during a rally Sunday in Colorado Springs protesting Republicans' push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a 30-year-old mom who has a potentially fatal liver disease, imagined not having health insurance.

"I'd be frantically searching for a way to obtain health care," Beverly Dawson said, "while wondering if my life was going to end within the next year due to complications from my disease."

Organized by several activist groups such as Unite Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Feminists and Colorado Springs Socialists, the gathering at City Hall focused on the American Health Care Act, which passed the House by the narrowest of margins on a largely party line vote last week and now heads to a skeptical Senate.

The bill backed by President Donald Trump, would do away with the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Proponents say it would create a patient-centered health care system that will increase choices and lower costs. Critics contend its a tax break for the wealthy that will leave patients with pre-existing conditions with no coverage and drive up costs for the elderly and poor.

The rally - dubbed "Make America Sick Again" - was the latest in a series of protests nearly every weekend in Colorado Springs since Trump took office Jan. 20. The day after his inauguration, about 7,000 people took part in the local Women's March, perhaps the largest demonstration in the city's history.

"Trumpcare is a crime against humanity and every elected official who voted in favor of this legislation needs to know where the American people truly stand," organizers wrote in a Facebook post about the rally.

JP, who declined to provide her full name, held a cardboard sign with syringes, diabetic test strips and other medical products to show the treatments she goes through as an insulin-dependent diabetic. Her sign read, "Diabetics against AHCA."

She said she pays about $3,000 per year for her treatment, adding that she's afraid that her medical bills will go up if Trump's health care plan passes.

"However much it is," said JP, "it's much more than what I'm having to pay. I'm not asking for a handout. I'm asking to be treated fairly and not to be discriminated against."

After about 90 minutes of speeches, participants ended the rally by taking a short march to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner's downtown Colorado Springs office, who is among the group of Republican senators who will be working on a Senate version of the bill.

Two counter-protesters held signs supporting the GOP measure. One read "Full Repeal," while a second sign - offering "free helicopter rides." The phrase, often used by the alt-right, refers to killings known as death flights when thousands of political opponents were thrown from helicopters into the ocean during Argentina's Dirty War and the rule of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Another man who was passing the protests made obscene gestures.

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