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Health care protests heat up outside Rubio office in Orlando

By Steven Lemongello, For Orlando Sentinel , On 30 June 2017, Read Original
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The weekly protests outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Orlando struck a more urgent tone Tuesday, as liberal groups rallied against the Senate Republican health care bill.

“No matter how much you’ve called your legislators, no matter how hard you’ve been fighting, what you do now is what matters most,” organizer Anna Eskamani said to the gathering of about 50 people in downtown Orlando.

A vote on the bill, unveiled last week, has been postponed by Republican leadership until after the July 4 recess. It would increase the number of people in the U.S. without health coverage by 22 million and push up medical costs for millions of other poor and sick Americans, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republican senators, including several moderates and conservatives who said they would vote against the bill as written, were also called by President Donald Trump to the White House for a meeting.

Rubio had said he would vote for a motion to proceed with debate, but beyond that, he said he would decide how to vote on the final bill based on how it impacts Florida.

The CBO score was “a national estimate based on a worst-case scenario and is also dependent on decisions states make,” Rubio said Tuesday in a Facebook Live video.

“These decisions have to be made by elected people in each of these states, and that would be true of Florida as well,” he said.

The weekly protests, organized in part by liberal groups For Florida’s Future and Indivisible Central Florida, have ebbed and flowed in terms of attendance since the first rally three days before Trump’s inauguration in January.

“It seems every Tuesday there’s a new terrible piece of legislation or executive order we’re here to fight against,” said Blake Williams, of For Our Future, who also announced a “die-in” against the bill 4 p.m. Wednesday outside the Rubio office on Church Street.

Rasha Mubarak, regional director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Orlando, criticized the health care bill as well as Trump’s travel ban against visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries, which was partially implemented by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Eskamani, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, decried the proposed drawdown of Medicaid funding in the bill, which would also make some required Medicaid benefits optional.

“Women are impacted to a much greater extent, especially in Florida, where women are disproportionally [on] Medicaid,” Eskamani said. “If more people lose access to health care, more people will die.”

Many rallygoers held signs reading, “Hey Marco, Trumpcare is Mean” — referring to Trump’s self-acknowledged description of the House health bill — “Save our health care, call Marco Rubio” and “Did you forget? We are your constituents.”

Rubio said he has spoken with spoke with Gov. Rick Scott, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and state Senate President Joe Negron about the draft bill.

“We need a way to have a vibrant market … that’s affordable and has the coverage people need,” Rubio concluded his video. “For the chronically ill, we don’t want people going bankrupt because of health care costs, but also [need legislation] attractive enough and flexible enough to offer plans that attract a 35-year-old who’s healthy.”

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