Jacksonites Join Protesters Across the Country

By on January 15, 2017


(Photo: Jessica Sell Chambers)

Protesters in Town Square gathered on Sunday to be a part of nationwide demonstrations against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (Photos: Jessica Sell Chambers)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – While the temperature hovered in the single digits, more than 100 people gathered on the Town Square today to protest the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare, President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda, and the transfer of federal public lands to state control. Organized by the Teton County Democrats, the Jackson rally was among dozens of similar events across the nation today spearheaded by Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the new chair of outreach for the Democratic Party, to oppose the repeal of ACA. Sanders, along with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, appeared at an event in Warren, Michigan, while politicos like Sen. Elizabeth Warren was at an event in Boston and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi spoke in San Francisco.

Among attendees in Jackson Hole was Beverly Boynton, a retired critical care nurse who moved to the valley in 1981. “An assault on democracy is something to fight even though it’s inconvenient,” she said. Though Boynton said she’d rather be skiing, it was more important to brave the cold to demonstrate. She was not alone.

A diverse group of people ranging in age, profession and motivation attended the Sunday protest. Standing alongside locals and visitors in front of the antler arch on Cache and Broadway, Boynton was joined by people holding handmade signs in support of ACA, public lands, Planned Parenthood, women’s health, LGBTQ rights, public education, and single-payer healthcare.

For Boynton, repealing ACA will be a hardship. “Being on Affordable Care Act insurance my first year of retirement saved my bacon,” she said. Too young to qualify for Medicare and battling several health issues, Boynton says her ACA plan has given her access to affordable quality care.

Beverly Boynton attended Sunday's protest in support of the Affordable Care Act and protecting public lands.

Beverly Boynton attended Sunday’s protest in support of the Affordable Care Act and protecting public lands.

Keeping public lands in public hands—an issue being debated in the Wyoming Legislature right now via a proposed constitutional amendment that could pave the way for private ownership—is another important issue for Boynton. “Once we lose public lands and they’re destroyed, they’re gone for eternity,” she said.

Two Jackson Hole High School seniors noticed the rally and wandered over from Starbucks where they had been preparing for “equality day” school events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 16. Concerned with the future of the planet, Connor Butler, 17, wants the country to stay focused on renewable resources and energy and to stay the course with the Paris Climate Agreement. “The most important issue has to be climate change,” he said. “There’s a lot of inequality in the world that’s truly awful but we don’t get to solve that if we’re all drowning.”

Parked on the square in a green puffy jacket, Pete Wales sat semi-reclined in his motorized wheelchair. A “Save Obamacare” sign rested on the fleece blanket draped across his lap. Wales, a former law professor at Georgetown University, has lived in Jackson Hole almost 40 years. “I’m joining my neighbors to send a message to Washington to save Obamacare, and to Cheyenne to leave our public lands public,” he said.

Wales is wheelchair bound and breathes from an oxygen tank because he suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As someone who receives Medicaid, Wales says his healthcare will not be directly affected with the repeal of ACA. However, he pointed to profound indirect consequences from the act’s repeal. “[It] will put a terrible crush on all our hospitals. So hospital care will be diminished by this action.”

Medical professionals share Wales’ concern, specifically pertaining to the replacement of Obamacare. In December, the American Hospital Association sent letters to Trump and Congressional leaders highlighting a new report that details the significant impact a repeal of ACA would have on hospitals and health systems, according to an AHA press release. The report stressed how health coverage is key to ensuring patients have access to the care they need. The letter requested that any reconsideration of the ACA should be accompanied at the same time by provisions that guarantee similar coverage to those who would lose it.

More than 20 million Americans are insured under Obamacare. In the end of 2016, the uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent, according to the annual report on health insurance coverage from the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest amount of uninsured people in the country’s history.

But ACA’s most vehement critics, Republican lawmakers in particular, say flaws in the program are reason enough to repeal the law. They have decried rising costs such as high premiums, the taxes implemented to pay for the law and the coverage mandates people and employers face under ACA.

During a December episode of 60 Minutes, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed that Congress would work on an orderly transition to replace Obamacare. But though Republicans voted this week in the Senate and House to pass a budget resolution that will dismantle key parts of the law, they have not yet presented any plans for how they would replace ACA leaving millions of Americans in a state of uncertainty.

– Jessica Sell Chambers and Robyn Vincent





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