The Times-Tribune

CARE AND CONCERN

Citizens speak against GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

- BY DAVID SINGLETON

STAFF WRITER Diane Dreier came to a chilly Lackawanna County Courthouse Square with a pointed message for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and other Republican­s in Washington: Don’t mess with America’s health care.

The Dallas resident joined about 50 other concerned citizens across the street from Mr. Toomey’s local office in the Scranton Life Building on Tuesday to protest GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reform Medicare.

Ms. Dreier, one of a handful of speakers at the rally, said Republican­s in Congress have tried for six years to get rid of the ACA, commonly

known as Obamacare, but still don’t have a plan to replace it as GOP President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office Jan. 20.

“If Congress hasn’t come up with

“They say they have a better plan, but why should we believe them? Before Republican­s vote to repeal the (Affordable Care Act), we say to them: Show us the plan.” Diane Dreier Speaker at rally

a replacemen­t in six years, why should we believe that they will come up with one now?” Ms. Dreier asked. “They say they have a better plan, but why should we believe them? Before Republican­s vote to repeal the ACA, we say to them: Show us the plan.”

Coordinate­d by the progressiv­e advocacy group MoveOn. org, the Scranton protest was among about 75 “speak-outs” held across the country to call attention to GOP plans to repeal Obamacare.

Ron Bartizek, one of the organizers, said Scranton was included not only because the region played a key role in Mr. Trump’s victory in the November election but also because it is home to a large number of people who rely on the programs now in jeopardy for affordable health insurance.

“We are here to send a message to Toomey and Trump that the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid are crucially important programs that must be continued and strengthen­ed, not repealed or weakened, to help Americans live better and longer,” he said. “Nothing more accurately defines a great nation.”

According to one analysis, nearly 1 million Pennsylvan­ians will lose their health insurance by 2019 if the ACA is repealed, he said. Others will see their premiums rise substantia­lly.

“That is just not acceptable, nor is it good for our people,” Mr. Bartizek said.

West Pittston resident Erin Berlew said she came to the rally to urge Mr. Toomey to vote responsibl­y on the ACA. Calling herself “the face of Obamacare,” Mrs. Berlew said she had serious pre-existing conditions that would have prevented her from obtaining health insurance otherwise after her husband was injured and could not work.

“It’s terrifying to me that the Affordable Care Act could be repealed with absolutely no replacemen­t plan,” she said.

Describing health care as a right, Gretchen Ludders of Glenburn Twp. explained her presence at the rally by saying the worst thing people can do is be complacent.

“There are a lot of vulnerable people who might lose their health care, and we don’t know what’s replacing it,” she said. “They just say they are going to repeal and replace, and we don’t have any idea what that means.”

In a statement released after the rally, a spokesman for Mr. Toomey said the senator “appreciate­s hearing from Pennsylvan­ians and keeps their thoughts in mind when considerin­g all issues.”

 ?? BUTCH COMEGYS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Maggie Sampson of Honesdale joins a rally supporting the Affordable Care Act at Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in Scranton on Tuesday.
BUTCH COMEGYS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Maggie Sampson of Honesdale joins a rally supporting the Affordable Care Act at Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in Scranton on Tuesday.
 ?? BUTCH COMEGYS STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Caroline Cheng, 3, of Honesdale holds a sign in front of her mother, Tierney Lyons, during Tuesday’s rally supporting the Affordable Care Act at Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton.
BUTCH COMEGYS STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Caroline Cheng, 3, of Honesdale holds a sign in front of her mother, Tierney Lyons, during Tuesday’s rally supporting the Affordable Care Act at Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton.

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