Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley on Friday was joined by a crowd of people in downtown Portland to oppose the President’s efforts to kick 24 million Americans off of their health insurance; gut Medicaid; jack up premiums; and put in jeopardy the future of every American with a preexisting condition.
“To pass TrumpCare through the House, Republicans took a terrible bill and made it even crueler,” Merkley said. “If you have asthma, diabetes, cancer, or even an old sports injury, this bill threatens your access to care.
“I’m fighting back with everything I’ve got, and I’ve teamed up with nurses to present solutions that will take our health care system forward, not backward. That’s why this Nurses’ Week, I introduced bipartisan legislation to support nurses and strengthen the nursing profession,” Merkley said. “And while we’re fighting for our nurses, we also need to be fighting for our patients, and all those who could be patients — which is every single one of us!”
Merkley was joined at the rally by Teri Mills, a registered nurse with the Oregon Nurses Association; Maureen Andersen, a registered nurse at Oregon Health and Science University; Dr. Krysta Schlis, a pediatric oncologist at Doernbecher; and Rich Fox and Virginia Rice, Oregonians who depend on the Affordable Care Act to access affordable health insurance.
“The nursing profession adheres to a non-negotiable Code of Ethics,” said Teri Mills of the Oregon Nurses Association, which represents 15,000 nurses. “Our pledge is to promote health, prevent illness, restore health, and alleviate suffering. This is NOT up for discussion. And if you think Congress is tough, believe me you do not want to mess with a group of nurses.
“Oregon’s nurses stand by our patients and their families, no matter what their health condition or financial circumstances might be,” Mills continued. “Nurses will continue to fight to make sure that Medicaid funding is protected; pre-existing conditions are covered; and every Oregonian receives the care that they need and deserve.”
Last week, Merkley introduced two bills that would improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in the health care system. The bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2017 would elevate the role of nurses in America’s public health by designating a National Nurse for Public Health. The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 would reauthorize, update and improve programs that help to grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.
“Jeff Merkley has shown that he is behind nurses with the proposed legislation to create a National Nurse for Public Health — a HUGE leap to advance the profession of nursing on a national level, through disease prevention and by renewing funding to help educate and advance nurses as we go through an enormous generational shift,” said Maureen Andersen, a registered nurse at OHSU who works the night shift in the Mother-Baby Unit. “This funding is the opposite of TrumpCare. It moves toward developing new nurses and strengthening our workforce, rather than placing more strain on a system that can all too easily be stretched thin.”
A crowd of people came out to support stopping TrumpCare in its tracks. They joined hundreds more doctors and nurses who took to Twitter to respond to OHSU physician Dr. Esther Choo’s tweet: “I asked my physician colleagues why they opposed the #AHCA. The answers are bone-chilling.”
“What is so incredibly frustrating is the knowledge that some people simply don’t have access to care — which is why most of us in medicine have been so thankful for the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Krysta Schlis, pediatric oncologist at Doernbecher. “I am not alone in the experience of seeing patients who have gained care through the expansion of Medicaid. And I am not alone in the gnawing dread that those very same people are about to fall back into the gaping chasms of our health system should the American Health Care Act become law. That’s why Dr. Choo’s simple question caught fire.”
Merkley called on the crowd to continue the grassroots effort to make sure health care in America is truly a right, and not a privilege.
“In the days before the ACA, I was denied health insurance because I had gone to a doctor about a sore knee that turned out to be perfectly healthy,” said Rich Fox, who was denied coverage for simply asking a doctor about a sore knee and then reporting the doctor visit two years later on an insurance application. “Whatever your politics, I’m sure you’ve got someone in your family who’s had a minor injury, a chronic disease, or some other health issue that insurers would love to exclude them from their ‘pool’ to minimize their risk.”
Merkley and the medical professionals said that to improve care, the Affordable Care Act must be used as a starting point to be built upon, not ripped away from 24 million Americans.
“My life would not be possible without the Affordable Care Act,” said Virginia Rice, who had a life-saving liver transplant as a teenager, and now lives with a pre-existing condition. “I could not afford to live without the ACA; my medical bills this year alone would already be several thousand dollars. The guaranteed access I have to health insurance means I can work and be a productive member of society. No person should ever go bankrupt for their health.”
The event was streamed live on Facebook. Watch here.