As Bus Rolls into West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin This Week, Here’s a Look Back at Week 1 On the Road with Protect Our Care

Beginning last Sunday, September 23, Protect Our Care hit the road, taking the health care fight to communities across the country in its first-ever nationwide bus tour. Kicking off in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Saturday, September 23, the bus, “Care Force One,” will make 48 stops across 23 states, covering nearly 12,000 miles.

Joining Protect Our Care’s leaders Brad Woodhouse and Leslie Dach on the journey across the United States are cancer survivor and health care advocate Laura Packard Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Angus King (I-ME), Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and more.  

At a time when health care is consistently ranked as a top issue for the public, the tour is highlighting that the Republican war on health care is very much alive, with Republican officials using legislation, regulations and the courts to continue their attacks on protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, for women, older Americans and Medicaid and Medicare enrollees.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the first week of the tour:

At Care Force One’s campaign kickoff, Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Ned Lamont were joined by nearly 100 community members outside a Bridgeport Community Health Center to call attention to Republicans’ ongoing war on health care care.

 

“Connecticut made the decision to try to make the Affordable Care Act work, not undermine it like many other states did,” said Senator Chris Murphy. “Think about the 20

 

million Americans who have been given access to health care, whose lives have been changed. Just imagine what that number would be if every other state approached the Affordable Care Act the way Connecticut did.”

On Day 2 of the tour, Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) joined state representatives and Mainers with pre-existing conditions at Portland City Hall to speak out against the devastating repercussions of health care repeal.

“We’ve got to continue to fight against repeal,” said Senator Angus King. “I call it a zombie proposal because it keeps coming back, and it’s a terrible idea and we have to keep trying to push that back to try and protect Medicare as well as the Affordable Care Act.”

From there, the bus rolled onto Banger where State Representatives Steve Stanley, Anne Perry, and Ryan Tipping joined former Mayor Joe Baldacci and Mainers with pre-existing conditions at Waterfront Park to speak out against the devastating repercussions of health care repeal.

“If I didn’t get the treatment I needed when I was younger, I would not be here today. Today, I work with women on the waitlist waiting for treatment. I have 43 women on my waitlist, 36 of which do not have insurance, and I can guarantee you they’d be eligible for Medicaid if it were to expand,” said Ashley Homstead, who works in the recovery community.

After Maine, Care Force One rolled into New York. In Binghamton, Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, Jim Carr of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, and local residents rallied for health care and in Kingston Assemblymember Kevin Cahill and small business owner Pat Strong called out the Republican war on health care.

“I’m just a grandmother who has a granddaughter with disabilities,” said Linda Quilty. “She was born as what they call a ‘floppy baby,’ she just didn’t move… Now, she’s eight years old and she’s doing wonderfully well. My concern is – what happens to these babies who don’t get the assistance that she has had? Where do they go without all of that help?”

Then on day 4, the tour took to New Jersey, where pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Chuang, nurse Claudia Storichs, and small business owner Jim Parker were joined by Bruce Davis of the New Jersey NAACP, Seth Hahn of CWA New Jersey and Andy Kim. “I’m the father of two baby boys, and my youngest baby was someone who had significant health problems right from the very beginning,” said Kim. “I remember when the doctors told us that he was dangerously underweight and had real risk. And it reminded me of how many families in this country and this community have health care crises and are unsure of how they’ll be able to afford it.”

From there, the bus rolled on to Pennsylvania, where day 5 was spent with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, state Senator Vincent Hughes and State Representative Tim Briggs, County Executive and former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, Robin Stelly from Pennsylvania Health Action Network and residents living with pre-existing conditions who decried efforts by Republicans to roll back progress on health care.

“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.”

“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, whose three children all have special needs, joined Shapiro and the group of advocates.  

On day 6, Care Force One was in Ohio, where American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, Cleveland City Council Members Blaine Griffin and Phyllis Cleveland joined civil rights attorney Betsy Rader and local health care providers and patients to speak out about the devastating repercussions of health care repeal.

“What we’re seeing in the country right now is essentially a group of people that Trump basically represents, who want to keep power and control for those who are rich, raising healthcare costs for all of us,” Weingarten said.

This week, the bus rolls on to West Virginia. Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. More details about upcoming stops can be found here.