The upcoming vote on the GOP health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, inspired a group of about 35 citizens to gather outside 5th district Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office in Bellefonte on Wednesday afternoon. They held a variety of homemade signs designed to send a single message: "Vote No."
Psychologist Theresa Welch of Bellefonte said she's concerned about the effect the bill will have on her clients, especially the working poor.
"It’s not going to require insurance companies to carry mental health or substance abuse treatment," Welch said. "Are we not in the middle of an opioid crisis? That is a huge big deal."
Welch went on to say that while the bill would cut costs, the cuts would cost more.
"This costs everybody," she said. "It’s not just about being compassionate. It’s about common sense. People get incarcerated if they don’t have health care. They end up in the ER if they don’t have health care. That costs everybody money. Plus it causes misery to our fellow Americans."
Pam Short, a retired professor of health policy at Penn State, said the GOP health bill would be "a disaster."
"Basically," Short said, "the plan is to take over a trillion dollars, over 10 years, out of spending on health care, and put it into tax cuts for rich people, and insurance companies, and drug companies."
For Jared DeLoof of State College, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and passage of the GOP health care bill would hit home in a big way. DeLoof said he has type 1 diabetes, and has been getting his insulin and health care through Medicaid.
"If this plan actually caps Medicaid," DeLoof said, "and I can’t get back on it, I’m on the hook for $32,000 a year. Which is kind of a death sentence to me. So that’s why I’m out here today holding this sign and hoping that we can convince Thompson to remain a 'no' on this bill."
Rep. Thompson has not yet said how he'll vote on the bill. In a statement, spokeswoman Renee Gamela said that the congressman believes the Affordable Care Act must be repealed and replaced. She said that because of Thompson's experience in health care as a therapist and licensed nursing home administrator, "he was welcomed to negotiate the finer points of the bill, a courtesy not afforded to him when Obamacare was being debated in 2009. GOP leadership acted in good faith and amended the bill based upon negotiations with the Congressman. While this is a step in the right direction, he will be taking time to further examine the bill leading up to the vote.”
A vote on the GOP health care plan is expected today.