Protesters rallied in Portland Thursday to press Maine’s U.S. senators to reject the GOP health care bill endorsed in the House, known as American Health Care Act, and the Trump administration's proposed Medicaid cuts. The rally coincided with the Senate’s May recess.
Organizers collected handwritten messages in empty medicine bottles that they say they plan to deliver to Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Andrew Francis of the Maine People's Alliance, one of the organizers of the rally, said the focus is on Collins because she hasn't always lived up to her moderate label.
"And we know she has distanced herself from the legislation that has come out of the House," Francis said. "We certainly want to reinforce that there is no middle ground when it comes to healthcare... And any bill that results in less healthcare is unacceptable."
Collins has been working with Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy on an alternative health care plan that would allow states to continue with the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Angus King, an independent, opposes the GOP House bill.
Rally organizers said they were also concerned about the Trump administration’s proposed budget, which includes deep cuts to Medicaid and other social safety net programs. That worries Maine resident Cullen Ryan, the father of a son with disabilities who relies on Medicaid.
"If cuts of this magnitude were to go through, people like my son would have no services," he said. "It would mean his mother and I would be unable to work because we would be caring for our son since he'd have no supportive services. That would put two people out of work."
Dr. Lauren Ciszak, a family physician in Portland, said that concern about patients’ access to health insurance is what has brought her to the rally.
"My job is to work towards things that keep people healthy and one of the biggest things that keeps people healthy is health insurance and access to basic preventions so that they don't get sick," said Dr. Ciszak. "So I just view working against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act as part of my job as a primary care doctor."
The rally was organized by Mainers for Accountable Leadership, the Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine People's Alliance.