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Kentuckians Send Message to Congress: "Everybody Deserves Health Care"

Speakers at a weekend rally in Pikeville had a message for Congress: Everybody deserves health care. (Jerry Hardt)
Speakers at a weekend rally in Pikeville had a message for Congress: Everybody deserves health care. (Jerry Hardt)
July 31, 2017

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- In Pikeville, a city in the far eastern part of Sen. Mitch McConnell's home state, more than 100 people rallied on Saturday, renewing their call for health care for all.

Irony perhaps that the previously-scheduled event, part of a national day of action, came barely 24 hours after the collapse of repeated efforts in the Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Majority leader McConnell called that a "disappointment," but at Saturday's rally people were emboldened that their grassroots voices helped keep Congress from blowing up the nation's health care law.

Bev May, a nurse from Floyd County, was emcee at the rally.

"This is a long, long marathon that we're going to be running and we just got over a first big hill,” May said. "They shut us out of the process, they didn't listen to us and, guess what? It didn't work. And that means our democracy is still doing what it ought to do."

May said there were physicians, ministers, union workers and people with illnesses who have gained health insurance through the ACA at the rally - each sending a message that millions of Americans would be harmed by efforts to undermine Medicaid and other essential federal programs.

She said elected leaders need to put people's health and well-being first.

"It should be a priority in every decision that they make, and we're calling on them to keep what's good in our health care system and what's serving people now and make it even better,” she said.

And for true compromise, May said, the nation's leaders have to listen to "everyday folks."

"So that means that they're hearing the stories of people who have benefited from the ACA; of people whose lives have been saved by Medicaid expansion, as well as just the stories that they tend to want to hear of people who are aggravated because their premium went up or some other problem,” May argued. "Those stories need to come out as well."

Early Friday morning, Sen. John McCain of Arizona joined fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in voting with Democrats against a so-called skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY