“Care Force One” Makes Stops in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Erie on National Bus Tour
(Washington, DC) – Today, Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour finished its drive through the Keystone state with stops in Harrisburg, featuring State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Stacie Ritter and State Rep. Tim Briggs; Pittsburgh, featuring Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro; and Erie, featuring County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, who joined Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions to speak out against the devastating repercussions of health care repeal.
You can watch the Harrisburg event here.
You can watch the Pittsburgh event here.
You can watch the Erie event here.
The events were part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour calling attention to Republicans’ attempts to sabotage health care, including a lawsuit that would gut protections for Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions.
“The Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage for millions of Pennsylvanians, especially those living with pre-existing conditions, and I will do everything in my power to protect that coverage. It is a dereliction of duty for Attorney General Sessions to refuse to defend the constitutionality of the ACA in the Texas v. Azar case. He is wrong, both morally and on the law, and I refuse to allow Pennsylvanians to be bound by the results in that case,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Now more than ever, we need our elected officials to stand up and defend the protections created by the ACA.”
“I fought to make sure that young people could stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 when I was in Congress,” said County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper. “I’ve continued advocating for access to quality, affordable health care as County Executive, and actions by leaders in Washington to shrink access and make health insurance even more expensive for Pennsylvanians is disturbing. Enough is enough – stop threatening protections for Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions and raising prices on hardworking Americans.”
In Harrisburg, Senator Hughes and Ritter were also joined by State Representative Tim Briggs, Robin Stelly with Pennsylvania Health Action Network (PHAN), and Michael Simmons, who lives with pre-existing conditions and talked about the protections provided to him under the Affordable Care Act.
“Preserving the protections from the Affordable Care Act is one of my top priorities,” State Senator Vincent Hughes said. “Not only were we able to expand Medicaid in the Keystone state, but we saw a dramatic increase in insured individuals. I don’t want to give up that progress and force those in need, especially people with pre-existing conditions, to be without the critical services they must have to survive.”
“The Affordable Care Act drastically expanded coverage to millions of Pennsylvanians and created important consumer protections to prevent discrimination against those living with a pre-existing condition,” said State Representative Tim Briggs. “As Chair of the House Health Committee, I’m committed to protecting the ACA and all that it’s done to improve health care for Pennsylvanians.”
“When you become a parent, you don’t always think about what could happen to your kids until they’re in the hospital. My twin daughters were diagnosed with cancer, and I remember thinking ‘what are the odds?’” said Stacie Ritter. “Going forward, the pre-existing condition protections in the Affordable Care Act will let them lead healthy and productive lives.”
“Not only am I small business owner, but I’m also a cancer survivor. If the ACA disappears, I’ll lose my coverage,” said Michael Simmons of Lancaster. “I couldn’t get individual insurance before the ACA was passed, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford insurance if it went away. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions made sure that insurance companies couldn’t turn me away or charge me more just because I had a pre-existing condition.”
In Pittsburgh, Attorney General Shapiro was joined by Dr. Geoffrey Ruben; Erin Gabriel, the mother of children with pre-existing conditions; Nurse Michelle Boyle; Liz Klie, of Planned Parenthood; Lisa Frank, with the SEIU; and Joe DiFazio, a Pennsylvanian living with a pre-existing condition.
Dr. Geffrey Ruben said: “I’ve been an emergency physician for more than 30 years, and I’ve seen firsthand how devastating exclusions for pre-existing conditions was for patients. And I have seen just how beneficial the ACA has been for patients and their families. We need leaders in Washington that will stand up for all Pennsylvanians – especially those many, otherwise productive individuals with pre-existing conditions.”
“Medicaid gave my little girl the ability to swallow and eat, to walk, even to make friends. Medicaid has filled the many gaps in her private insurance, and the protections provided in the ACA for pre-existing conditions and prohibitions on lifetime caps has meant that my daughter can still be covered by insurance,” said Erin Gabriel, also at the Pittsburgh event and a mom to three children with special needs. “Abby now uses hearing aids and glasses, a wheelchair, a speech generating device, custom made braces for her feet, braces for her wrists, and a seizure monitoring device on her wrist. All of them paid for by a combination of our private insurance and Medicaid. All of which could be denied to her if we didn’t have the protections of the ACA.“
“My mother-in-law died at the age of 58 from a treatable chronic disease before the ACA was passed,” said Michelle Boyle. “She was denied insurance because she had a pre-existing condition and couldn’t afford the necessary care and treatment. During my career, I’ve met so many patients that gained health care coverage because of the protections for pre-existing conditions. I’m thankful the ACA created these rules so no one has to experience the tragedy that my family did.”
Liz Klie with Planned Parenthood stated “The ACA has been the greatest legislative advancement in a generation for women. The ACA has brought 62 million women access to no cost birth control, lifesaving screenings and other preventive health services and it ended insurers ability to charge more for coverage based simply on being a woman or having a pre-existing condition.”
“The Affordable Care Act expanded care to millions of Pennsylvania’s workers and protected them from discrimination by health insurance companies,” said Lisa Frank with SEIU. “If lawmakers and courts roll back the ACA, our members and millions of Pennsylvanians will lose coverage and face significantly higher prices.”
“I’m self employed, and if it weren’t for the ACA, I either would be uninsured or I would have had to fold my business and taken whatever job I could that provided insurance,” said Joe DiFazio. “Before the ACA, Insurance companies turned me away because I had a very minor pre-existing condition. Since then, I developed a more serious medical condition, but with the ACA, I’m covered, and at the same reasonable cost as everyone else.”
In Erie County, County Executive Dahlkemper was joined by Tanya Teglo and Terri Hullihan, Pennsylvanians living with pre-existing conditions, who shared their stories and talked about the protections provided to them under the Affordable Care Act.
“Living with Cerebral Palsy has presented me with a unique perspective and a real understanding of why health care and Medicaid benefits are important and should be protected,” said Tanya Teglo while speaking about her pre-existing condition. She explained that, “without Medicaid and protections created by the ACA, it would be tremendously difficult for me to get the care that I need.”
“I got sick two decades ago while working at a company with great benefits, but my illness kept me from working, and I lost my job,” said Terri Hulihan. “But then the ACA was passed into law – including provisions that prevented insurance companies from discriminating against me for having two chronic illnesses – and I was able to get insurance again.”
“The stakes have never been higher for Pennsylvanians’ health care,” said TJ Helmstetter of Protect Our Care. “Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, almost 479,000 Pennsylvanians have gained health insurance. This is all in jeopardy due to Republicans’ repeal and sabotage agenda. Pennsylvanians want this Republican war on health care to end, plain and simple. That’s why we’re here today.”
The bus now travels to Cleveland and onto Columbus for events on Friday. More details about upcoming stops can be found here.