Rhode Island business owner Gina Rombley said that before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the cheapest health plan she could find for herself, her daughter and her husband was $800 a month. “That was just way beyond what we could afford,” said Rombley, “So I first want to say, thank God for Planned parenthood because that’s where I went.”
Rombley was speaking at the Johnston Senior Center where Rhode Island’s congressional delegation was holding a rally to send a strong signal to a Republican controlled Congress that the ACA is important and needs to stay. Similar rallies were held across the country. Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally in Michigan that drew thousands. Here in Rhode Island, hundreds packed the senior center and hundreds more were outside.
Rombley said that eventually she found an out of state health plan for just over $400 a month. “Long story short: They never paid our doctors bills,” said Rombley. As the company that took her premiums was investigated and ultimately taken over by another company, Rombley, “had to personally negotiate with our doctors to bring down the bills and pay everything out of pocket… We never got reimbursed for our monthly premiums.”
Since the Affordable Care Act, Rombley’s family has had coverage. When her mother went to the doctor, they discovered she had stage three uterine cancer. “Because she’s insured, she got fantastic medical care… We were even able to take her to Sloan Kettering for a second opinion… And I’m glad to say she is now considered cured, and that would not have happened…”
“We depend on this,” said Rombley, “We are a small business. My parents depend on this, my daughter depends on this… You can’t take something away from so many people that need it.”
The event was introduced by Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena who declared i his opening statement, “My belief is that health care for all Americans is a right.”
Senator Jack Reed said, “The Affordable Care Act has saved lives and we have to work to save access.”
“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who hate Obamacare, but love all its parts,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Keeping children on their parent’s policy until age 26, the elimination of the Medicare “donut hole,” the elimination of life time caps on payouts, forcing insurance companies to cover customers with pre-existing conditions, preventing insurance companies from canceling coverage when you get sick, are all things most people are for. “Other than that, people really hate Obamacare,” said Whitehouse with evident sarcasm.
Dr. Nitin Damle is the President of the American College of Physicians. “It’s really the mark of an advanced society,” said Damle, “We’re the only advanced, developed nation in the world that doesn’t have universal health care. We should be ashamed of ourselves.”
“We know that Republicans have had seven years,” said Representative James Langevin, “For seven years they’ve made no secret of their intention to gut this law that is providing health care coverage to millions.” Langevin was interrupted during his speech by someone from the audience who wanted Langevin to reveal information regarding President-elect Donald Trump and the Russian hacks. Langevin is a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, and says that protecting the country’s national and economic security against cyber threats is one of his top priorities.The woman was silenced by her fellow audience members and left, for which Langevin thanked the audience.
“I can tell you that I feel a lot better than I did this morning,” said Jane Hayward, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, “When I got up in the morning and read about some of the activity in Washington yesterday, I continued to be sad, heartbroken, and I would say, a little depressed. Walking in here and seeing all of you, makes it worthwhile for us to continue this fight.”
Representative David Cicilline extolled the virtues of the ACA, noting that the Republicans in Congress have had almost sixty votes to repeal or defund the ACA. “Now of course the Republicans are saying, ‘repeal and replace’ because they recognize that they have to have a solution, but they don’t.”
Maureen Maigret, RN, BS, MPA, is a consultant to the Senior Agenda Coalition on long term care and elder services policy.”Did you know that almost half of Rhode Islanders participate in either Medicare or Medicaid? I think it’s like 45 percent… If we go to voucher programs, and that has been talked about by some of the new people who are leading congress, it will be absolutely devastating.”
“The Holy Grail of health care, what we’ve been after for decades as a nation, is affordability and access,” said Governor Gina Raimondo, “we have that, and we are very close to having that here in Rhode Island.”
Thanks to Adam Miner for being our onsite photographer for this event.