Huntington doctors, legislators and community members gathered last Wednesday, June 28 for a health care vigil to protest and call for improvements to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the U.S. Senate’s answer to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
Although a vote for the bill was rescheduled until after the July Fourth recess, Republican senators have been working to swiftly pass their health care bill, which was passed in the House in May, and has been met with criticism.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected that over a decade, some 22 million fewer people would be insured compared to those currently covered under the ACA.
Huntington residents, concerned they will be uninsured and unable to care for themselves and their loved ones if the Senate bill is passed, attended the event.
Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, a pediatrician who works in Huntington village, has worked to organize many events encouraging Americans to speak out against the proposed health care bill.
“As a physician, it’s important to show we’re coming together against this bill,” Meltzer-Krief said in a phone interview. “I think it’s a terrible bill — it’s the opposite of what Robin Hood does.”
The Huntington doctor said much of the public has fundamental misunderstandings about who Medicaid helps, and cuts to funding could be disastrous for many Long Islanders. The proposed Senate bill would rein in future growth of Medicaid spending — amounting to about $770 billion less funding over the course of a decade.
“Children, the elderly, the disabled, low-income families, they are the people who rely on Medicaid,” Meltzer-Krief said. “[These cuts] would affect so many people, it would hurt so many people. It’s an unethical bill and fundamentally wrong.”
Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) was in attendance for the event. Spencer is an ear, nose and throat physician.
“I felt it was important to attend because the crux of my passion for public office is to give a voice to the population that doesn’t have the voice,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “The disabled, children, the unemployed, they often don’t have a platform. This bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of people.”
Spencer said a bill this important needs input from both sides of the aisle: “This should be a bipartisan issue, these decisions shouldn’t be rushed in a back room.”
The legislator said it was very powerful to see the community reach out at the vigil, and see all walks of life attend including men and women, old and young, disabled residents, different races, and gay and straight people.
Meltzer-Krief said the proposed changes to states’ responsibilities to cover essential health benefits will affect all kinds of people, like women relying on maternity care and people dealing with drug addiction.
“The timing with how substance abuse is on the rise … it’s really terrible,” she said. “There are a lot of dangerous things about this bill. Every doctor and health organization I’ve talked to is against this bill. You should listen to your doctors when it comes to patient care, not  men behind closed doors.”
New York Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D) have both said they are against the Senate version of this bill and would not vote for it.