Bay Area Democrats Draw Hundreds to Health Care “Town Halls”

At a town hall at Oakland's International Community School , some demanded universal or single-payer healthcare, in addition to defending the Affordable Care Act from Republican attacks.

At a town hall at Oakland's International Community School , some demanded universal or single-payer healthcare, in addition to defending the Affordable Care Act from Republican attacks. (Courtesy of Rep. Barbara Lee)

The Affordable Care Act drew cheers and applause at Democrat-led town halls held Saturday morning in San Francisco, Oakland and Martinez.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had urged her colleagues headed home for the week-long Congressional recess to hold local events and build on the momentum from the Jan. 21 Women’s March.

Pelosi held her own event Saturday near San Francisco’s Embarcadero, joined by California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley, and the CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Susan Ehrlich.

At the event, San Francisco resident Gladys Soto told Pelosi about her son, who has severe asthma attacks that often land him in the ER.

“The sad process of seeing my son fighting for his own life has been more tolerable, knowing that at least he has health insurance,” Soto said.

A woman who gave only her first name, Nicola, said her breast cancer was caught early because of the Affordable Care Act. The law requires insurers to offer certain preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, at no extra cost to the patient.

Pelosi then urged additional action.

“The most effective use of everyone’s time is to communicate with constituents in Republican districts,” she said. “Nothing is more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents.”

In Oakland, hundreds joined Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee at a grade school in Fruitvale.

“I have had three strokes in nine years, and I have defeated a battle with colon cancer,” said Jarvis Johnson, 54, a retired truck driver. “The Affordable (Care) Act has made sure that I get all the care that one is deserving of, to be able to survive.”

Rep. Lee said some of the law’s lesser-known benefits would be lost if Republicans succeed in repealing the ACA. For instance, coal miners who suffer from black lung disease are now eligible for more benefits under the ACA. “It crosses party lines,” Lee said. “People are going to lose their healthcare in West Virginia.”

She also told the crowd that before the law, a handful of states allowed health insurers to refuse coverage to victims of domestic violence. “That constituted a pre-existing condition!” Lee said, as the crowd booed and jeered. “Within the context of the ACA, women’s healthcare is a huge issue, and we will not go back.” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Residents crammed into the Contra Costa county building on Saturday to voice their concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medi-Cal.
Residents crammed into the Contra Costa county building on Saturday to voice their concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medi-Cal. (Alyssa J. Perry)

In Martinez, it was standing room only inside the Contra Costa County administrative building. The town hall was hosted by Congressman Mike Thompson, Congressman Jerry McNerny, and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, all Democrats. Toni Henlee, 70, decided to come after opening an email yesterday.

“I got an email from AARP yesterday about Ryan’s budget and his plan to ‘voucherize’ Medicare,” she said. “I am very, very concerned.”

Many seniors fear if they have to pay for private insurance with vouchers, the money won’t be enough to cover their treatments.

Rep. Thompson told the crowd that no piece of legislation is perfect, but repealing the ACA and making drastic changes to Medicare is not the answer.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) takes questions after the healthcare forum in Martinez.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) takes questions after the healthcare forum in Martinez. (Alyssa J. Perry)

KQED’s Alyssa Jeong Perry contributed to this report. 

  • gbtmpgb

    I think these people are under the impression the free health care for all. Who is going to pay for this?

Author

Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel is the Health Editor at KQED, where she also reports for the radio and online. Her stories have appeared on the national NPR shows Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Here & Now, and on the national website, Kaiser Health News. Her print career included stints at the Houston Chronicle, The (Bergen) Record,  and the Associated Press in New York City. A native of St. Louis, Feibel attended Cornell University, and earned a master's in journalism from Columbia University.

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Guy Marzorati

Guy Marzorati is the AM Producer for The California Report and KQED News. He also works on KQED's California Politics and Government Desk. Guy joined KQED as an intern in 2013. He grew up in New York and graduated from Santa Clara University. Email: GMarzorati@KQED.org

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