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Group rallies for healthcare changes

As temperatures crept into the low 90s last week, one group of 30 Kansas Citians braved the heat in the hopes of making their voices heard in the equally heated healthcare debate.

Members of the organization Indivisible Kansas City, a group dedicated to civic engagement at the local, state and national levels, held a rally at the corner of 10th Street and Walnut late last week in order to voice their opposition to the current healthcare legislation being discussed on Capitol Hill.

According to a July 13 article from Reuters, the current iteration of congressional Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act healthcare plan would allow insurance companies to sell cheap policies while retaining taxes on the wealthy. The stripped-down policies would not be required to cover health issues such as maternity and newborn care, mental health, outpatient care, and prescription drugs, among others, the article states. Under the proposed plan, insurers such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield say that the insured would see higher insurance premiums, as well as weakened protections for pre-existing medical conditions.

Kansas City resident Jake Lupardus, one of the organizers of the rally, is one of those who would be adversely affected by the legislation, should it pass.

“I never thought anything catastrophic would ever happen to me,” says Lupardus, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, at the age of 27. “So far, I’ve not needed any major care, but that will change with age. If I didn’t have health insurance, I’d be paying more than $7,000 (for care and treatments).

Lupardus says he is heartened to hear that among both Democrats and the Republicans, the proposed legislation is unpopular, its chances of reaching the president’s desk shrinking by the day.

“It’s not looking good, and that should tell you a lot, when you have Republicans breaking from the ranks,” he says. “In this bill, the Medicare cuts in a lot of places are devastating.”

He says the ACA, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, is flawed, and that changes need to be made, but the current bill circulating around Congress does little to enact positive change.

“The insurance companies weren’t happy with the Affordable Care Act, and I don’t think they’re happy with this,” he observes. “The issue is complicated. I’m not going to claim to be an expert, but I’ve tried to be well read. Ultimately, I want to get to a place where everyone is covered, but for now we need to take what we have in the Affordable Care Act and improve upon that. I know there are things that need to be fixed.”

Lupardus, who joined Indivisible Kansas City a week after Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, is regularly doing his part, along with the rest of the group’s members, to educate both lawmakers and everyday citizens on the benefits of working toward a solution for everyone. One effective way to do that, organizers decided, was through storytelling -- presenting those with pre-existing medical conditions as real people on whom the law would have a real effect.

“It started with a scrapbook,” he explains. “One of our organizers with Indivisible KC thought it would be a good idea that those of us who would be impacted by the law put together scrapbooks of our stories and give them to Sen. Roy Blunt, to Claire McCaskill, to Emanuel Cleaver. That’s where it started. I decided there was too much at risk to stand back and watch what was happening.”

Indivisible Kansas City will continue to meet and plan rallies and activities to raise that awareness, according to another event organizer, Hillary Shields.

“We need to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions and people on Medicare. None of the bills (Congress) has proposed does that. I hope (volunteers) keep showing up, and that (lawmakers) realize that they’re trying to do will hurt people,” she notes.

Shields says that covering everyone will be a winning strategy for all -- for the insured, the insurers, business owners, and politicians alike.

“I think that if we make sure all Americans have access to healthcare, there will be no losers in that equation,” she says. “If we take care of everybody, we all win.”

For more information on Indivisible KC and upcoming events, visit www.indivisiblekc.com.