Group of Arizonans calls on Congress to stop passage of American Health Care ActPosted: Updated:
Despite objections by some Arizonans, the House on Thursday voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in favor of the American Health Care Act and sent the measure to the Senate.
Jodi Liggett of Planned Parenthood Arizona is one of several who spoke to people gathered at the Capitol late Thursday morning calling on Congress to stop the repeal.
Liggett described the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as “the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.”
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have a very different opinion about AHCA and hosted a news conference in the White House Rose Garden touting Thursday's victory and to “brag” about the plan.
Calling the House vote “the beginning of the end of Obamacare,” Pence said, “We’ve taken a historic first step to repeal and replace Obamacare and finally give the American people the kind of health care they deserve.”
Liggett does not see it that way.
“Specifically, it would defund Planned Parenthood,” she said shortly before the vote. “What this means is that it would block people with Medicaid from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers, including birth control, cancer screenings and STD testing and treatment.
“This bill takes care away from 24 million Americans and that’s just wrong whether they come to Planned Parenthood or not,” she continued. “That’s just wrong. It will eliminate key protections that restrict insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing conditions and imposes unaffordable rates on the public.”
[WATCH: Entire news conference]
The issue of pre-existing conditions is a huge one, as Steve Gomez, the father of a little boy with a pre-existing condition, knows all too well.
His baby boy, Anthony, was born with a congenital heart condition called Transposition of the Great Arteries. That diagnosis came before Anthony was 2 days old. At 6 weeks, he underwent a successful heart transplant. But the damage had been done.
“Our routine is now his medication schedule and his cardiology follow-ups, which will be how he lives the rest of his life,” Gomez said. “This year alone, we are looking at possibly two more surgeries ….”
“Through all of this, we were fortunate enough to have employer-provided health coverage, but we have had to think about what we would have done or what we would need to do if we lost that coverage.”
With a lifetime of doctor appointments, lab tests, medications, prosthetics and therapy ahead of Anthony, not to mention the probability of needing another heart transplant, his insurance coverage needs will certainly increase.
“Paying for this care out of pocket due to Anthony being excluded for a pre-existing condition or having met a lifetime or annual coverage limit is something would devastate our family and is a reality that many families must face when a job is lost or changed.”
Gomez noted what he called a “red flag” in the bill, explaining that there is an exemption written into it for members of Congress, their families and their staff.
“If this bill is so good, why won’t they accept the same coverage?” he asked. “If it’s so good for America, why can’t they be covered under it, as well?”
Gomez was clear that he does not believe the ACA is sustainable as it is, but he is firm in his belief that the AHCA is not the answer.
“To repeal the ACA with the AHCA or any other plan that does not include essential protections such as pre-existing conditions and eliminates coverage caps/limits does nothing short of condemn the chronically ill and their families ….”
Representative Martha McSally (AZ-02) voted in favor of AHCA.
"This is not a perfect bill, but it is better than a failed system," she said in a statement released after the House vote. "As this legislation has taken shape, I have tirelessly advocated for my constituents. I have voiced concerns, identified constructive improvements, prevented destructive additions, and ultimately secured victories for the vulnerable in our communities ...."
She also addressed the red flag Gomez pointed out.
"I authored a measure preventing members of Congress from exempting themselves or their staff from the AHCA. Lawmakers are not above the law."
The bill now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where even GOP lawmakers say major changes are likely.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.