Durham County

Advocates rally against American Health Care Act

Over two and a half million North Carolinians could lose their health insurance or face increased costs under the American Health Care Act.

The act, passed in the U.S. House last month, is on the U.S. Senate calendar for this week. Health care advocates rallied against the proposed act in downtown Durham on Tuesday.

“We’re asking folks to call Sen. Burr and Sen. Tillis and talk to their staff and express their displeasure with at least what we're hearing about the bill,” said Kevin Rogers, Action NC policy and public affairs director.

Currently, about 2 million North Carolinians get comprehensive health coverage through Medicaid, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Just over 40 percent of those people are children.

Felicia Willems, a campaign director at MomsRising, said she got involved because she lost her health care when her son was born.

"North Carolina Medicaid literally saved my child's life,” Willems said. “And I decided then and there that I needed to do everything possible to make sure that the program was available for people when they needed it.”

Her son was born with a benign tumor that caused him to bruise whenever he cried.

“He would bruise all over his body which is very dangerous for an infant and a lot of pain because they cry a lot,” she said.

Willem said he is now thriving because of good start Medicaid helped him get.

"He’s ten years old, happy and healthy,” she said.

Over 4 million North Carolinians with pre-existing conditions could also be affected, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Included in that number are the thousands of people living with HIV.

“We’re very concerned for the quality of care of folk’s living with HIV and what it would mean if the Affordable Care Act was repealed,” said Lee Storrow, executive director of the NC AIDS Action Network.

He said advanced medication not only helps to suppress the disease in patients, it also helps to deter the spread of HIV.

Leaders agreed they want to know more about what is going on in Washington D.C.

"We’d like the secret process to stop,” Rogers said. "We think it’s important for constituents to understand exactly what’s going on and so that North Carolinians can take a real look at what happens before it happens as opposed to after.”

Rogers and Action NC called on North Carolinians to call U.S. senators Burr and Tillis and ask them to oppose the act.

“I hope that senators Burr and Tillis find it in their hearts to listen to the real life stories of their constituents,” Willem said.

She said the secretive process worries her.

“Moms know that when you’re being closed doors nothing good is ever going to come of that,” she said.

Ana Irizarry: 317-213-3553