Dec. 21--Diane Dreier came to a chilly Lackawanna County Courthouse Square with a pointed message for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and other Republicans in Washington: Don't mess with America's health care.
The Dallas resident joined about 50 other concerned citizens across the street from Mr. Toomey's local office in the Scranton Life Building on Tuesday to protest GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reform Medicare.
Ms. Dreier, one of a handful of speakers at the rally, said Republicans in Congress have tried for six years to get rid of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, but still don't have a plan to replace it as GOP President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office Jan. 20.
"If Congress hasn't come up with a replacement in six years, why should we believe that they will come up with one now?" Ms. Dreier asked. "They say they have a better plan, but why should we believe them? Before Republicans vote to repeal the ACA, we say to them: Show us the plan."
Coordinated by the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org, the Scranton protest was among about 75 "speak-outs" held across the country to call attention to GOP plans to repeal Obamacare.
Ron Bartizek, one of the organizers, said Scranton was included not only because the region played a key role in Mr. Trump's victory in the November election but also because it is home to a large number of people who rely on the programs now in jeopardy for affordable health insurance.
"We are here to send a message to Toomey and Trump that the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid are crucially important programs that must be continued and strengthened, not repealed or weakened, to help Americans live better and longer," he said. "Nothing more accurately defines a great nation."
According to one analysis, nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians will lose their health insurance by 2019 if the ACA is repealed, he said. Others will see their premiums rise substantially.
"That is just not acceptable, nor is it good for our people," Mr. Bartizek said.
West Pittston resident Erin Berlew said she came to the rally to urge Mr. Toomey to vote responsibly on the ACA. Calling herself "the face of Obamacare," Mrs. Berlew said she had serious pre-existing conditions that would have prevented her from obtaining health insurance otherwise after her husband was injured and could not work.
"It's terrifying to me that the Affordable Care Act could be repealed with absolutely no replacement plan," she said.
Describing health care as a right, Gretchen Ludders of Glenburn Twp. explained her presence at the rally by saying the worst thing people can do is be complacent.
"There are a lot of vulnerable people who might lose their health care, and we don't know what's replacing it," she said. "They just say they are going to repeal and replace, and we don't have any idea what that means."
In a statement released after the rally, a spokesman for Mr. Toomey said the senator "appreciates hearing from Pennsylvanians and keeps their thoughts in mind when considering all issues."
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