Nearly 200 protesters gathered on the grounds of Mountain Lake PBS in advance of a forum held by Republican Elise Stefanik in Plattsburgh Monday evening.
While some people came to express dismay over what they perceive as lack of access to their federal representative, most gathered to protest Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s vote to support the American Health Care Act. Protesters carried a coffin inscribed “Here lie the newly uninsured, those 377,000 New Yorkers whose human rights have been co-opted for political gain.” The Grim Reaper walked among the crowd as signs portended devastating results if the House bill becomes law.
Bill Laundrie of Plattsburgh says the measure might make health care cheaper but not better, and calls Stefanik’s vote indefensible. "She needs to make her own decisions instead of listening to Paul Ryan. She’s a smart young woman. She doesn’t need to do what they tell her. The bill’s of concern. I mean anyone who even reads it would know it’s not in the interest of the people in this district. But she’s told to vote one way, she votes that way. That’s what I think.”
Sara Carpenter drove from Queensbury. She wore a pin noting that her husband’s chemo costs $11,100 monthly. "We have good insurance. They have paid over a quarter of a million dollars to treat my husband’s leukemia. A quarter of a million dollars. I’m terrified about the AHCA. And I’m also concerned because right now our politicians keep talking about the ACA and the AHCA but nobody’s looking underneath the surface at what’s causing health care costs to be going up so high. I want affordable pharmaceuticals.”
Registered Respiratory Therapist Beth Ashworth says her patients are worried. "They’re in tears. It stresses them out. It doesn’t help with the healing process at all or the fact that a lot of individuals will lose coverage. So they’re not going to come in until it’s a full blown emergency and it might be too late then. We can’t save them.”
A small group of Republicans stood nearby watching and occasionally chatting with protesters. Franklin County GOP Chair Ray Scollin notes that Stefanik campaigned on repeal and replace. "Nobody should be surprised over this health care reform work that she’s been doing. She campaigned on it: that she would repeal and replace Obamacare. Personally I think that the bill that came out of the House was horrible. I think she knows it too. And I think that there’s a plan just to get it out of the hyper-partisan House and get it to the Senate where a decent bill can come out of there."
Following the forum, Congresswoman Stefanik said protesters should not worry about losing health care coverage. "Our plan will insure that they have access to high quality affordable health care. They have a right to share their viewpoints and on this issue we disagree, but they have a right to share their viewpoints. That’s one of the strengths of our democracy in this country
Organizers distributed cards for protesters to sign that call Stefanik’s vote a shameful betrayal of her constituents. The cards will be delivered to her office on Friday. There’s more on the TV town hall at wamc.org.