June 29, 2012
Drivers downtown during the Friday lunch hour rush honked their horns and slowed their cars as they saw a group of people standing outside waving signs.
In spite of temperatures hitting 100, about 30 people stood outside the offices of Piedmont Access to Health Services building on Main Street to demonstrate their support for Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
They waved signs and chanted praises to the Supreme Court and the law requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance by 2014. The group was supposed to be there for just 30 minutes because of the heat, but everyone was so enthusiastic they stayed for more than an hour.
While the demonstration was organized by progressive group Virginia Organizing, word spread throughout similar organizations bringing more people.
Correll Townes was one of the people who came out to brave the heat. Before Townes was eligible for Medicare, she spent around $1,500 a month for health insurance for her and her husband who was self employed. After the Affordable Care Act was passed, provisions knocked down some of that cost and made her medicines cheaper. And for Townes, a few hundred dollars can mean a lot every month.
“It was like finding a gold mine,” said Townes. Now she hopes the law will help not only people who do not have insurance, but people that do — by bringing down high premiums like she once had.
Loretta Murray said she believes by helping the uninsured it helps the whole community and access to health care for everyone is something she continues to pray about in her church. Even though she was wet with sweat, Murray was still leading everyone in supportive chants.
“It’s hot, but we are fired up,” said Murray before stirring up the crowd again.
The group stood in front of PATHS as a symbolic show of support for the community health center, which treats uninsured and underinsured patients. CEO Kay Crane called the Supreme Court ruling a “victory” since it helps to ensure 32 million Americans will get coverage. Around 50 percent of the patients at PATHS have no insurance at all, and the employees there have seen first-hand the struggles of the uninsured.
While PATHS would welcome additional Medicaid patients, places like the Free Clinic of Danville — which serves mostly uninsured adults with chronic illnesses — may have to change. About 85 percent of current visitors of the Free Clinic would be eligible for coverage under the ACA. While that still leaves a significant number of people in need of the free clinic’s services, the organization may have to evolve.
A major next hurdle for the health care law is going to be the upcoming elections. A new president and Congress could try to repeal it — and the battle lines are being drawn.
Many Republicans see the ACA as too expensive in a time of economic turmoil as well as providing the government with too much power by requiring everyone to have health insurance.
U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th District, who has demeaned the law for hurting small businesses especially, said he looks forward to voting to repeal it and Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen said he wants to be the deciding repeal vote. Their Democratic opponents, congressional candidate Gen. John Douglass and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine have praised the ACA.
The organizers Friday were basking in the glory of the Supreme Court’s ruling as well as the sun, but they understood there is still a fight to keep it alive. Before they left each of them took a pamphlet to call the governor and encourage everyone to be politically active in keeping the ACA alive.