Diedra Orosa, of North Canton, Ohio, cannot help her 16-year-old son learn to drive because she, herself, is no longer able to do the task. The mother of three and long-time nurse was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis earlier this year, which has impaired her vision and hand-eye coordination, she said.
The diagnosis has been brutal; she can no longer work, drive or finish sentences without confusing words. Worse yet, her medical expenses have gone through the roof, she said, costing over $80,000 each year.
Orosa came with her husband and their eldest son to Ohio State Saturday to speak out in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and protest efforts by Congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA. They stood across the street from the Ohio Union, where the Ohio Republican Party State dinner was held Saturday.
Orosa, who is covered under her husband’s health care, said if the ACA, also known as Obamacare, is repealed and its replacement doesn’t maintain a ban on lifetime caps, she could be in jeopardy of reaching a potential cap by age 55.
“I won’t even be able to get insurance — and that’s if I don’t get any (other medical condition) throughout my life,” she said.
Orosa said her current insurance covers the cost of her daily — and expensive — medication that she takes each day to slow the symptoms of M.S. and keep the fluid in her brain from spreading, as well as the MRIs conducted during doctor visits. She said with a potential lifetime insurance cap, these services would be unattainable due to the out-of-pocket cost.
The dinner is an annual fundraiser for the Republican Party, and this year it included an address by Vice President Mike Pence. Prominent Republicans, such as Sen. Rob Portman attended the event. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vocal critic of Congress’ latest attempts at replacing the ACA, did not, citing a family obligation.
Kasich and Pence both attended a closed-door session earlier in the day.
Of the estimated 200 in attendance at the protest, many families were present, including Sierra Dobs-Brown’s family.
Dobs-Brown, a third-year in international development, brought along her younger sisters, Dylan, and Chai Dob-Euans, so they, too, can experience what democracy is, Dobs-Brown said.
“I wanted to bring them out to show them that things like this matter and that their voice matters and that they can have a say in anything even though they’re young,” she said.
Dobs-Brown criticized the latest proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on repeal-only legislation, which came after the GOP’s attempts at passing a repeal-and-replace bill failed to garner enough support from senators.
The proposal from McConnell would give Republicans two years to come up with a replacement for Obamacare, but many have criticized that route, including Dobs-Brown.
“Right now if repeal without a replacement, 32 million Americans would lose their health care,” Dobs-Brown said, citing a figure from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan group that evaluates the impact of proposed legislation. “That’s insane. We can’t let something like that happen.”
Kelly Weber, of Gahanna, Ohio, also came to voice her objection against repealing the ACA without replacement, and she came with a specific bone to pick in mind.
“I organized the sit-in that turned into a sleep-in that turned into the ADAPT Ohio getting thrown out of their wheelchairs at Portman’s office,” she said, referencing the July 7 arrests of members of the disability rights group. “I’ve been in Portman’s office multiple times and this is the first time he’s shown his face anywhere around here, so you’ve got to get out and try to get him to see what’s going on.”
Along with organizing various sit-ins and attending well above twenty protests, Weber said she has made multiple calls to Portman every week since November, has sent postcards to his office on the topic of health care, emailed his office, made posts on his website, tried to schedule meetings at his office and has pestered him about conducting a town hall. She said she has not heard back once.
“He held an online town hall where you got to submit questions and he decided which ones to answer and answered those and then didn’t answer anymore,” Weber said. “That’s not a town hall, that’s a press conference.”
As for her ideal response from Portman: “A phone call — that would be nice.”