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Local Democrats Rally Against Latest Federal Health Care Bill
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
09:30PM / Monday, September 25, 2017
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Dozens went to Park Square on Monday in opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Jay Gonzalez.

Jessica Shandor.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.



Park Square was lined with people opposing the new federal health care proposal.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Republicans are attempting to once again repeal and replace the ACA with a new health care program. 
 
The so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, sponsored by Republicans Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, is the latest attempt at a new federal health care program.
 
Republicans spent much of the weekend attempting to round up the votes needed to pass, but the bill is looking to fall short -- with three Republicans already indicating they will leave the bill short on votes.
 
But that didn't stop a few dozen local Democrats from taking to Park Square in protest against the bill.
 
The crowd gathered at 5 p.m. with signs and a speaking program to express their support for the Affordable Care Act and opposition to the attempts to dismantle it.
 
"They're trying to bring something back from the dead to kill a lot of people, quite frankly," state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said of the latest attempt to repeal the ACA, often called Obamacare.
 
The Democrats say millions of people will lose health care coverage, that it will allow insurance companies to deny coverage for "pre-existing conditions," and that Massachusetts will lose billions in federal funding. 
 
Jessica Shandor would be one of those caught in the middle of pre-existing conditions. She said her daughter has Type 1 diabetes and if the Graham-Cassidy bill is passed, she might not be able to get affordable coverage.
 
"It can cost upward of $20,000 on health care for a diabetic," Shandor said.
 
Michael Bushy's partner Rebecca is on the verge going to a nursing home at age 37. Bushy said he provides her with physical needs around the house, monitors her health, and provides her with the help she needs to stay inside her home.
 
"Without me, Rebecca, at 37 years old, would be shunted off to a nursing home," he said.
 
But, he says he's just as fragile. At any point, he said he is a moment away from death or a disability. It is the health care coverage provided in the ACA that helps people in tough times.
 
"You are one moment away from needing this health care that is on the table and is in danger," Bushy said.
 
The Democrats aren't saying everything is perfectly fine with the Affordable Care Act. They just believe the replacement bills are steps in the wrong direction.
 

State Sen. Adam Hinds said the state government will continue to move toward a single-payer system.
"President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are trying to take us backward. Make no mistake, if this passes we will lose billions of dollars in federal funding, hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts will lose coverage, they will have less access to the health care services they need, be less healthy, and we will have communities that are less strong," said Jay Gonzalez, the state's former secretary of administration and finance under Deval Patrick and now running for governor himself.
 
Gonzalez said successfully defeating Graham-Cassidy only brings things back to the status quo. Instead, he wants Massachusetts to move toward a single-payer system.
 
"We've got a health care system today that is too complicated. It is too expensive. And the quality is not as good as it should. We need to move to a single-payer system that is simpler, cheaper, and does a better job at keeping people healthy," Gonzalez said.
 
More and more Democrats are moving in the direction of single-payer. It has been kicking around for a number of years but recently there has been a bit more support behind it.
 
"A year ago there weren't as many people standing up and saying health care is a human right. There weren't as many people who said we could do anything in Massachusetts like single payer," state Sen. Adam Hinds said.
 
Hinds said Massachusetts will make strides toward a single-payer system, but first, a number of bills will be coming to the State House to lower the cost of health insurance here.
 
At the end of the day on Monday, the news from Washington was that Republicans did not have the votes again this time to overturn the ACA. The vote was expected to happen on Wednesday and local Democrats said to keep the pressure on Congress despite the current vote expectations. 
 
The turnout at Park Square nonetheless was impressive to some. State Rep. Paul Mark said, "it seems like just about every week now there is an offense we need to rally against" and every week the Berkshires make their voices heard. 
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