BEND, Ore. - (Updated with second protest, protester comments, Walden's response)
Several citizens staged a "die-in" in front of Rep. Greg Walden's downtown Bend office Friday -- and a few hours later, a larger group held a similar event at Drake Park, both to protest Walden's role in and support of the House-passed American Health Care Act, a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
There were nine participants in the lunchtime protest by disability and health care advocates that lasted about an hour outside Walden's office, two of whom traveled from Portland for the event.
Several lay on the ground with "tombstone" protest signs behind them.
One organizer, Matt Cowell, said it was organized by a number of area groups, including Indivisible Bend and the Vocal Seniority.
"There are two events today because there is a tremendous amount of public concern about the AHCA and this was the easiest way for everybody who wants to make a statement to do so."
“We’re going to try to represent symbolically the consequences for what would actually happen if the AHCA were to become law,” Cowell saidl.
“You can’t get a vote in the House and get the bill off his hands and expect us to forget about it,” he added. “We’re still here, we’re still paying attention, and this still impacts us.”
Some passers-by offered a different perspective, one calling to the protesters to next time, “go out and vote — and win.”
But the protesters held to their message.
“We have the money to pay for these things,” said Tess Raunig, who is scared of an uncertain future.
“I get caregiver hours from the state through Medicaid,” she said. “I get a lot of my health care completely covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to afford any of that without the Affordable Care Act.”
The Congressional Budget Office found the AHCA would cut $880 billion from Medicaid spending over the next 10 years.
Raunig said her life without this help looks a lot different.
“I don’t have help getting dressed, cooking - doing all the things I need to do to live my life, basically,” she said.
Elizabeth Weltin said the message of the day's protests is that "Greg Walden has betrayed his constituents," and "to protest the inhumanity of the AHCA."
She wrote, “This bill is deadly because it:
o Robs 24 million United States citizens of their current health care protection
o Increases insurance payments for seniors, fivefold
o Eliminates coverage protections for pre-existing conditions
o Caps and reduces Medicaid (US health insurance for the poor)
o Reduces taxes ONLY for people making MORE than $200,000/year
o Eliminates "essential health benefit" (EHB) requirements
o Could bankrupt America--we have no idea what this will cost American citizens, since it was passed with NO CBO SCORE
o Allows ALL Insurance Plans (INCLUDING employer plans) to impose lifetime limits on healthcare costs and eliminate out-of-pocket caps from their plans"
Walden offered this response to the protests to NewsChannel 21:
"These latest stunts and claims are misguided and untrue. Independent fact checkers have made it clear that the legislation guarantees insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and provides them with resources to buy insurance at an affordable rate. Current Medicaid beneficiaries will continue on their coverage uninterrupted. Today's events are part of a nationally organized effort designed to disrupt the work of congressional offices and attract media attention.”
These links and information were also provided with his statement:
Here's one on a claim that 129 million people with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/05/10/kamala-harriss-claim-that-129-million-people-with-preexisting-conditions-could-be-denied-coverage/?utm_term=.437fcc751142
And one on the claim that rape is counted as a pre-existing condition: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/05/06/no-the-gop-health-bill-doesnt-classify-rape-or-sexual-assault-as-a-preexisting-condition/?utm_term=.bcf99e928309
The House Energy and Commerce Committee that Walden chairs has also released fact sheets: