Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, joined other advocates, politicians, and everyday Americans at a Day of Action rally in Richmond, Virginia Sunday. The Day of Action was an opportunity for people across the country to stand up for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Richmond rally – attended by Richtman, Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Governor Terry McAulife – was one of more than 40 protests nationwide.
Some one thousand people gathered on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol to make their voices heard. Max Richtman rallied the crowd early on with a reminder of the struggle to defend Social Security in 2005. “We had a president (George W. Bush) whose top agenda item was to privatize Social Security. Even with a GOP House and Senate, we were able to kill it. Not a single bill reached the floor. And that’s what we can do today. We can defeat any changes to the ACA which will endanger Medicare.”
Ricthman reminded the crowd in stark terms exactly what is at stake if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, “despite a lot of the myths that citizens have heard in the past few years.” Medicare beneficiaries, in particular, would lose the valuable improvements that the ACA provided. “Here is the truth,” Richtman said from the podium, “For the first time ever, Medicare beneficiaries were able to get annual wellness exams with no out of pocket costs under the ACA. For the first time ever, they could get preventative screenings with no out of pocket costs, including mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and diabetes screenings. All of that will disappear if the ACA is repealed.” He warned that the Part D Prescription Drug “donut hole” – which the ACA was rapidly closing – would return with repeal, costing the average beneficiary more than $1000 a year.
As the Washington Post reports, the Day of Action was the brainchild of Senator Bernie Sanders and other democratic leaders in Congress. At rallies across the country, crowds heard poignant testimonials from Americans who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. Kate Barrett of Richmond worried that her daughter suffering from incurable cancer could be denied coverage or won’t be able to afford treatment if the ACA is repealed. 73-year old Scott Gledhill said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months after signing up for Medicare. “My bill would have been half a million dollars. I would have lost everything I had, after a whole lifetime of work and saving.”
Day of Action organizers want Republicans in Congress to feel public pressure against ACA repeal, and urged attendees to contact their elected representatives right away. “Don’t agonize. Organize!” was the rallying cry of the day, said Richtman. “As we’ve learned from our past battles,” he explained, “Once politicians feel the heat, they begin to see the light.”