Weekly Feature

2017-05-18 / Local News

‘Die-In’ orchestrated to protest AHCA

Lancaster/Depew Editor

Bob Carlson, left, and Tim Socha joined other constituents of Rep. Chris Collins to protest the American Health Care Act. 
Photo by Amy Robb Bob Carlson, left, and Tim Socha joined other constituents of Rep. Chris Collins to protest the American Health Care Act. Photo by Amy Robb Rep. Chris Collins is in the crosshairs of his constituents again, due to his support of President Donald Trump’s American Health Care Act.

Fourteen activist organizations staged a protest on May 11 at Walden Pond Park in Lancaster to make their opinions heard about the bill, ending with a “die-in” to show the number of people who would be affected if the Affordable Care Act was repealed.

“This particular event was organized shortly after the vote in the House for the American Health Care Act,” said Mark Grimaldi with Emotion into Action.

“There was a lot of raw emotion, people scared about what this meant for them, confusion by a lot of people, and people who wanted to somehow put together something that would put that emotion into an appropriate action that would reflect how outraged people are.”

With the help of the Town of Lancaster and Councilman Matt Walter in particular, the “die-in” was able to be conducted peacefully, and able to accommodate roughly 80 people who attended, according to Grimaldi.

Four speakers shared their stories with the crowd, starting with Melissa Lietzan.

Lietzan’s son, Lucas, was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma at 8 years old. After rounds of intense chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and radiation to his pelvis, Lucas is now canis cer-free but still has a long road ahead of him.

“He has had hearing loss from the chemotherapy, he needs physical therapy, he had to have a reconstructive surgery to repair that ureter, so now he has two kidneys into one ureter, and so that has to be monitored throughout his lifetime,” said Lietzan.

“He’s at risk for scoliosis, thanks to the radiation to his pelvis, and he is also certainly at risk for this cancer coming back or a secondary cancer from all chemo and radiation that he has had.”

Given everything the family has gone through already, having to worry about medical bills would be devastating.

“When I saw the American Health Care Act pass our House of Representatives, I almost lost it,” added Lietzan.

“If I were to try to put a number with all the bills that I saw, in what insurance paid for, I would say, conservatively, at least $1.5 million. … Senators, we do not need this bill to pass.”

Ashley Barr of Lancaster was next to address the crowd. Barr, a faculty member at the University at Buffalo, has health insurance through work, but the same cannot be said for her mother and brother.

“My mom works for a small hardware store, and she doesn’t have employer coverage. She also suffers from a nerve disorder. This disorder has her on the ground in pain, unable to move, talk, do anything,” said Barr.

“Thanks to the ACA, my mom was able to afford care, to finally get a diagnosis, to finally get medication that enabled her to work, be productive, take care of our family.”

Without coverage, she wouldn’t have even been able to afford a diagnosis, according to Barr, because she would be priced out of care.

“On the day that the House passed this bill, she called me at work and was concerned about that happening again. She told me, there’s no point anymore,” said Barr.

“That wasn’t her biggest concern, though. Her biggest concern was my little brother. My little brother is 27. He has been struggling with addiction for years and years, and my dad did as well.”

Barr’s brother lives in Pennsylvania and was able to receive medication-assisted treatment through the state’s Medicaid expansion.

“My brother, with that care, able to work, he was able to come visit me in New York in October for my wedding, he was able to come to the Women’s March in [Washington] D.C. in January,” said Barr.

“That’s the brother that the ACA helped bring back to our family. When he’s clean, when he’s healthy, he’s kind. He’s caring, he’s smart, he’s productive; he’s a good citizen.”

According to Barr, when Collins chose to vote for this bill, he voted to disregard constituents like her mother and brother, and in doing so hinder the community.

“Health care is not just about compassion. Health care is a public good. It enables people to be productive citizens; it enables them to contribute to our economy, to their families, to their communities,” said Barr.

Other speakers included Victoria Ross, executive director of the WNY Peace Center; Annie Krause, who spoke about her daughter’s condition after an accident; and Sara Vernon with Planned Parenthood.

The event was organized and co-sponsored by GLOW Progressives, Constituents of Congressional District 27, Sister District for WNY, Indivisible NY 27th, Rochester ACT, WNY Peace Center, Buffalo Resists, Emotion into Action, ACTion Buffalo, Stand Up WNY, We The People, CWA District 1, Huddle for the 27th, and Citizens Against Collins.

email: arobb@beenews.com

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