Health care marchers celebrate ‘skinny repeal’ bill defeat

Wesley Story

A march in support of health care developed a victorious tone Saturday morning as Austin participants celebrated the recent defeat of the Affordable Care Act repeal legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Protesters had intended to rally at Austin City Hall to protest the Republican health insurance repeal bill, but after Friday's senate vote, the focus shifted to a broader denouncement of the attempt to strip millions of Americans of health care, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Indivisible Austin president Lisa Goodgame said now that the repeal legislation has been defeated, the focus needs to be on looking forward to other health care challenges.

“There are still a lot of challenges that we need to meet,” Goodgame said. “This win happened because millions of people across the country organized and told their members of Congress that repeal of the ACA and gutting Medicaid was unacceptable.”

The ACA repeal bill officially died in the Senate early Friday morning after Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, voted “no,” rejecting the so-called “skinny repeal” bill on the Senate floor. The “skinny repeal bill” or Health Care Freedom Act, would have repealed or rolled back several Obamacare measures, including the individual and employee mandates.

Some of the challenges Goodgame said still need to be addressed include improving the ACA and securing Medicaid for everyone who needs it.

In addition to the Austin march, people gathered in 151 cities across 43 states Saturday to participate in a nationwide day of action known as “Our Lives on the Line,” according to the event’s website. After the rally, protesters filed into lines to march down Congress Avenue, where they formed “life lines,” symbolized by a physical string. Participants brought written testimonies of their personal healthcare stories to hang on the string.

Maria R. Palacios, founder and president of the national Women with Disabilities Empowerment Forum, said she attended the event to represent the health care rights of people with disabilities.

“For millions of disabled Americans whose lives are on the line, this fight has meant the difference between life and death,” Palacios said. “People with disabilities refuse to be the throwaways of society.”  

Many of the speakers encouraged the crowd to take a more civically active role and to continue to fight for their health care rights. Registered voter deputy registrars also attended the event to sign people up to vote.

Some cars honked in support as they drove by City Hall and saw the signs held by protesters lined down Congress.

Akhil Mulgaonker, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd the defeat of the Obamacare repeal bill was a testament to their passion and tenacity, but they must remain vigilant because of the issues still being faced.

“Because of you, 22 million Americans have been spared of the journey and pain of having no health care,” Mulgaonker said. “At the end of the day, our people power prevails. When millions of Americans come together with one voice, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved.”