Health activists get Cotton’s ear
One Arkansan arrested, fined
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.”