CoMo for Progress holds demonstration against Graham-Cassidy health care bill

Rally organizers and Columbia citizens alike gathered outside Sen. McCaskill’s office to influence her no vote on the bill.
Protestors hold signs stressing the importance of health care outside Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office Monday, Sept. 25th.

In a move to influence Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, to vote no on the now-dead Graham-Cassidy federal healthcare bill, members of CoMo for Progress organized a short demonstration on Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. outside of her Columbia office.

Hoisting a long white banner that read “Protect Health Care, Stop the Cuts” and various signs that urged the importance of keeping healthcare, activists and other Columbia residents convened on the sidewalk outside 28 N. Eighth St. Other attendees were filling out postcards and penning letters to be given to McCaskill after the rally.

The Graham-Cassidy health care bill is legislation proposed by Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, that aimed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Because the bill would essentially give the states control over the health care market, the people who are insured by ACA right now would be left uninsured and forced to find coverage elsewhere.

Organizer of the demonstration and CoMo for Progress member Rebecca Shaw has experienced this situation first hand.

Her mother was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy and was insured under her former health care provider. Once the ACA was enacted, she qualified for pre-existing condition coverage, which had saved her family over $900 a month for healthcare insurance.

“I watched my mother’s savings dwindle and the system take advantage of her,” Shaw said. “It scares me so much to think that we would go back to that.”

For this rally, Shaw asked organizers of these groups to urge their members to show up and support the effort. Shaw believes that their presence at the demonstration would be enough to help get the group’s point across.

“It’s great for 25 of us to show up outside on a sidewalk,” Shaw said. “But if they don’t see us in Kansas City or St. Louis and they don’t know that this is a statewide call to action, then there’s no momentum.”

The effort to influence McCaskill’s vote is a result of similar discontent with the bill among various activist groups across Missouri. Groups like Jobs with Justice, the Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri and Missouri Rural Crisis Center have joined forces with CoMo for Progress in developing a cohesive message that addresses this issue.

“We want people to come because we hope to draw attention,” Shaw said. “We feel like our voices aren’t being heard by our representatives, specifically Sen. Blunt.”

Over the past nine months, CoMo for Progress has held several rallies and demonstrations outside Sen. Blunt’s office and have yet to receive a response. Shaw and her fellow activists said that Blunt is out of touch with his constituents’ needs, exemplified through not returning letters, calls or holding any sort of public town hall meeting.

“We want to point out that Sen. Blunt isn't really listening but that McCaskill has been there with us through this fight,” Shaw said. “I want to stand up and say thank you to Claire, for being a consistent and strong voice on health care.”

From attending many of McCaskill’s town hall meetings, Shaw has noticed that McCaskill’s support comes from listening to the personal testimonies of her constituents. After Shaw thanked McCaskill at the rally, she handed the microphone over to Scott Fines, a Columbia resident whose family has benefitted greatly from the ACA.

Fines’ son Ryan was born with a rare birth defect known as esophageal atresia, where his upper esophagus didn’t connect with his lower esophagus and stomach. Because he was born in 2014, under the protections of the ACA, the Fines were able to afford the six months of constant care and three surgeries it took for Ryan to make a full recovery.

“He was very lucky,” Fines said. “Many other people who have this condition aren’t as lucky”

Fines finds it disconcerting that Congressional representatives are “willing to take away essential health benefits from people.” Because of his personal experience with his son, Fines hopes attending this rally will show that this policy goes beyond just statistics, a sentiment also held by Shaw.

“It shows that there are actual people behind the issue,” Shaw said. “[This rally] is letting [congressmen] know that it’s about the people of this country and what we need to do to protect them, especially those who are less fortunate than us.”

Edited by Sarah Hallam |

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