HANFORD — Hanford residents and others visiting Thursday Night Market Place may have seen something a bit unexpected among the usual food vendors and live band: a Grim Reaper and people lying in the grass with tombstones above their bodies.
“We want to bring attention to the fact that without health care, people will die,” Hanford resident Claire Fitiausi said.
The “die-in” demonstration held at Civic Center Park was given by members of the Kings County Jimmy Carter Democratic Club and Indivisible Kings County, who gathered to protest the House of Representatives' — including Congressman David Valadao’s (R-Hanford) — vote to advance the American Health Care Act.
“This really is a visual representation of what we feel is going to happen to this county and this district if Trumpcare is enacted,” Ron W. Bates said. “There will be poor people who will die because they don’t have any insurance.”
The Republican health care bill, also called Trumpcare by some, replaces the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Up until the bill was voted on and passed on May 4, Valadao held a neutral stance and only commented on his position after he voted to approve the bill.
“As a parent, there is absolutely nothing more important to me than ensuring families have access to quality, affordable health insurance,” said Valadao in a released statement given after his vote. “Possession of an insurance card does not equate to healthcare services and medical treatment. The American Health Care Act will stabilize our healthcare system, ensuring our community has access to high quality, affordable health care."
Through her megaphone, Fitiausi chastised Valadao Thursday night for “refusing” to hold or attend a town hall meeting and voting for the American Health Care Act. While she read off a list of all the “harms” Valadao is doing to his constituents by voting for the bill, the other protesters chanted “Shame on you, Valadao.”
A previously reported 20,356 people in Kings County received health insurance under the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medi-Cal, the government-funded health care program for low-income residents. The new health care bill phases out the federal funding that made the Medi-Cal expansion possible.
Fitiausi said several groups have been trying since January to lobby Valadao to not vote for the Republican health care bill. She calls the bill “horrible legislation” that has negative effects for most people she knows.
“It is unfortunate that Valadao refuses to have a town hall [meeting], he refuses to answer whether he’s even read the bill that he voted on,” Fitiausi said. “He’s kind of hiding out.”
Fitiausi said Valadao had mainly done whatever he wanted in his time so far as a congressman, but now he has to be held accountable for his actions, which is why members of these organizations are making calls every day, writing letters and holding protests.
Fitiausi said she and her 11-year-old daughter both benefitted from the Medi-cal expansion and is “embarrassed and ashamed” of Valadao for choosing to vote with his party instead of his constituents.
“Because I’m over 50 [years old], I’m a woman and I have a pre-existing condition,” said Kings County resident Rebeccah Eversall when asked why she was protesting Valadao’s vote.
Eversall said it’s her understanding that her pre-existing condition, which is diabetes, would cause her to have to pay more for insurance than someone who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition. She said she couldn’t get insurance from her place of employment, however, she was able to afford Obamacare.
“If he [Valadao] makes everybody with pre-existing conditions pay more, I’m not going to be able to afford that,” Eversall said, adding it’s already a strain on her to pay all her other bills and insurance at the same time.
If she can’t afford and get health care, Eversall said she could end up going blind or losing limbs if she doesn’t take care of her diabetes.
“As an American citizen, I should be able to get health care,” Eversall said. “ACA may not be perfect, but it’s not kicking me off of the health care I need. ACA has some problems that need to be fixed, but it’s not killing me.”
Eversall said if she could say anything to Valadao, it would be “Why don’t you drop your taxpayer health care and come join the rest of us? Then we’ll see how it is for you.”
Bates, a member of both organizations protesting, said the main goal of the demonstration was awareness. He said he meets many people who don’t know the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, and they don’t understand the new proposed bill.
“The new Trumpcare is 10-times worse than Obamacare,” Bates said. “We’re trying to get everybody to understand that this health care [American Health Care Act] is really worse than no health care.”
Bates said there is nothing in the new health care act that benefits the average person and nothing that benefits Kings County residents. He said all he wants is for people to ask questions and be informed about what Valadao is supporting.