(UPDATED 11:15 a.m.)
HARTFORD, CT — A small but boisterous group marched from Capital Community College to the Connecticut Republican Party headquarters on Pratt Street Tuesday afternoon, chanting, singing and protesting what they called “President-elect Donald Trump and his allies’ massive attack on every aspect of our families’ health care.”
Once they arrived at the statewide GOP headquarters about 5:30 p.m., organizer Dan Durso rang the bell to the GOP office several times, but no one answered.
That didn’t stop Durso from reading a speech on the steps in front of the office, nor did it stop others from chanting slogans, such as “What do we want? We want our healthcare!” And, “Hands off our Medicare.”
Durso introduced himself as co-director of the “Our Revolution CT Team.” Durso was formerly the head of the Bernie Sanders for president team in Connecticut.
Durso said: “This is Connecticut, so we know some you Republican folks can be reasonable — that you’re not all crazy. We hope anyway.
“Shredding the country’s health care safety net is not being reasonable,” continued Durso. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act and stripping healthcare from 22 million is not reasonable. Trump’s proposed system based on the free market will only result in sicker and poorer people, and richer CEOs.”
Loud applause greeted Durso’s words, and a few passersby stopped to hear him talk, and cheered along with the rest of the crowd of 40 or so in attendance.
The gathering actually began nearby at Capital Community College, where several advocates spoke of their concerns about Trump and Republican leaders’ plans to dump the Affordable Care Act and other Democratic healthcare initiatives.
“The Affordable Care Act has been a major success,” Sheldon Toubman, a staff attorney who specializes in issues related to health care at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, told the small crowd at Capital Community.
And other less publicized programs such as Husky D, which is Medicaid for low-income adults, are also endangered if Trump and the Republican-led Congress cut federal entitlement programs, with the expectation that states pick up the costs, Toubman said.
“If the federal money goes away there is no way to save these programs,” Toubman said. “The state doesn’t have the money.”
State GOP Chairman JR Romano said the turnout at the rally was so small because the Affordable Care Act “simply isn’t working for the masses who aren’t on government subsidies.”
“The truth is the average working person premiums have been skyrocketing under Obamacare,” Romano said.
In defending the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, and advocacy groups have cited the 20 million people covered by the law, which has pushed the percentage of Americans without health insurance to record lows.
Last week, White House officials held a conference call with reporters to defend Obamacare.
Trump has said he wants to replace the Affordable Care Act with a free enterprise system and House Speaker Paul Ryan has indicated that legislation to repeal Obamacare in its entirety will be introduced upon Trump’s taking office.
Ryan has added, however, it would take a transitional phase-out period of a few years to buy time to get a replacement law passed and implemented.
The activist group said in a flyer promoting its meeting Tuesday that: “Donald Trump and his allies are proposing a massive attack on every aspect of our families’ health care.
“Whether it be privatizing Medicare, slashing Medicaid, repealing the Affordable Care Act or ending the ability of women to access the care they need, Republicans have made clear they are putting ideology over our families.”
One of the activists was Amy Martin, who spoke to the crowd at the college.
Martin, a social worker, pounded a drum for emphasis as she spoke to her fellow health care advocates.
“We need to safeguard Medicare and Medicaid,” Martin said.
Also speaking at the college was Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group (CCAG).
“This is an attack on the Affordable Care Act, on Planned Parenthood, on Medicare, on Medicaid,” Swan said. “We’re all going to be screwed.”
But it was Durso, back at GOP headquarters, that had the shivering crowd, many of whom held banners, the most riled up.
“For 100 years we’ve watched country after country make the decision to provide affordable healthcare to all its citizens. Governments did it out of concern and compassion for people, to provide a place where someone didn’t have to constantly worry how to pay for a medicine, or a service, and that someone couldn’t go bankrupt or lose their home to foreclosure due to medical debt.
“In the U.S. we like call these entitlements,” continued Durso, “and it carries this negative tone. It’s not an entitlement, it’s a need, a necessity, like food or water, and we lose our inalienable right to life and liberty, if we can’t be healthy.”
Durso ended the rally by imploring Connecticut Republicans to do what their counterparts in Washington may not be willing to do — namely — “Keep your hands off our healthcare!”