Health ac­tivists get Cot­ton’s ear

One Arkansan ar­rested, fined

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - FRANK E. LOCKWOOD

WASHINGTON — Hop­ing to high­light her op­po­si­tion to Repub­li­can health care leg­is­la­tion, Arkansas ac­tivist Har­rie Far­row tried two dif­fer­ent ap­proaches.

Mon­day, in the Hart Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing, she joined a protest and got ar­rested.

Tues­day, in the Rus­sell Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing, she sat down with U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton and urged him to pro­tect safe­guards con­tained in the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

The first day’s protest led to a $50 penalty and sev­eral hours in po­lice cus­tody.

The sec­ond day’s ac­tivism re­sulted in a meet­ing with a law­maker and a photo to post on so­cial me­dia.

Far­row of Eureka Springs was one of six ac­tivists who met with Cot­ton, urged him to pro­tect health cov­er­age for hun­dreds of thou­sands of Arkansans.

In an in­ter­view, Far­row said Cot­ton lis­tened re­spect­fully to their con­cerns.

“We wanted to im­press upon him that we’re not a bunch of just crazy rad­i­cals,” she said. “We’re ac­tu­ally Arkansas con­stituents who are good peo­ple and who care and whose lives are go­ing to be af­fected or whose friends’ and fam­i­lies’ lives will be af­fected.”

The meet­ing oc­curred as Repub­li­cans were pre­par­ing to re­lease their lat­est draft of the Amer­i­can Health Care Act.

Cot­ton’s spokesman could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day. On Thurs­day, the spokesman said the Repub­li­can from Dar­danelle was still study­ing the newly re­vised Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tion.

Far­row be­lieves the ex­ist­ing law, of­ten re­ferred to as Oba­macare, has im­proved life for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Repub­li­can ef­forts to re­peal and re­place it, she said, could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences.

“Po­ten­tially, a lot of peo­ple could be very se­ri­ously harmed to the point of lit­er­ally be­ing killed,” she said.

That mes­sage was driven home by ac­tivist, ed­u­ca­tor and Air Force vet­eran Gwen­dolynn Combs.

“I started out say­ing that my life is ruled by two chronic pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, that I have di­a­betes and ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis,” she said in an in­ter­view. “Health care is su­per im­por­tant.”

She also spoke about the chil­dren she sees.

“I teach at Stephens Ele­men­tary in Lit­tle Rock, and those stu­dents have need for spe­cific ther­a­pies that are paid by Med­i­caid,” she said. “[The] speech ther­apy and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, phys­i­cal ther­apy and men­tal health [ser­vices] that they get all de­pends on Med­i­caid, so I ex­pressed to him how im­por­tant it was that we keep those pro­grams in­tact for those kids.”

The ac­tivists had been promised a meet­ing with Cot­ton’s staff mem­bers, so they weren’t ex­pect­ing to de­liver the mes­sage to the law­maker them­selves.

“I think it was about 15 min­utes into the meet­ing that he came in and we were sur­prised. Some­body au­di­bly ut­tered the word ‘Wow,’” Combs said.

“Our whole pur­pose was to per­son­al­ize and hu­man­ize the ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. “We’re real peo­ple with real con­cerns, real lives, real jobs, real fam­i­lies and I wanted him to re­al­ize that.”

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