Roughly 200 San Francisco doctors and nurses rallied Thursday outside San Francisco General Hospital to protest the recently released Senate health care bill.
Crafted in secret by Republican leadership, the bill repeals major parts of the sweeping healthcare law implemented by President Obama, known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. The Republican replacement bill would phase out Medicaid expansion, cap spending on Medicaid and eliminate many taxes that fund Obamacare.
“This is about public health,” said Sasha Cuttler, a nurse at the hospital. “This isn’t a partisan issue. ... We have a duty to speak up against this.”
Dr. Matthew Hickey, resident physician and one of the organizers of the rally, said that it’s time for medical professionals to get more politically active.
“With the new health care bill being revealed, we felt it’s the right moment for us doctors to do more in the political sphere,” he said. Together with a group of resident doctors, Hickey created the group "Keep America Covered" that has organized other rallies since the elections.
During the rally, doctors, nurses and patients spoke to the crowd and led them in chants like, “Healthcare yes, denials no, profiteers have got to go." Organizers encouraged attendees to tweet about their opposition of the bill, as well as to ask their friends and family in other states to call their senators.
The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its report on the bill, but their report on the House’s version of the bill concluded it would leave 23 million Americans uninsured.
“This is not simply a despicable effort to deny essential healthcare services to 23 million Americans,” said UCSF professor Kevin Grumbach. “It is fundamentally an attack on the poor and the most vulnerable in our society and a massive transfer of wealth to the richest part of our society.”
One of the speakers at the rally was Troy Brunét, a patient living with HIV. He fears for fellow patients living with the decease.
“We are reverting back to the 1980s when the AIDS crisis hit us," he said. "And to be honest, this freaks me out. From now on, things are going to change for the worse.”
Brunét said he’ll continue to fight.
“I’m going call Scott Weiner and Senator Harris to tell them to continue the fight as well," he said. "And I’m going to reach out to my family back in Louisiana to tell them to also call their representatives and voice their anger.”
Things changed pretty dramatically at San Francisco General with the passage of Obamacare in 2010. Before it passed, nearly 35 percent of the hospital’s patients were uninsured. After, that number dropped to 3 percent for inpatient care.
“It means that people are going to get sick and people are going to die,” Dr. Amy Whittle said. “As a pediatrician I’m worried about preventive care and not being able to provide all the care that we know saves us money down the line.”
Republican leaders hope to vote on the bill as soon as next week, despite some initial opposition from Conservative lawmakers.
Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, the day before the Senate released their bill, another group of health care activists and senior citizens protested the proposed legislature, staging a "die-in" in front of the San Francisco Federal Building. The demonstration, organized by San Francisco Rising, was briefly interrupted when a motorcyclist rode during through the group, narrowly missing some of the people lying in the middle of 7th Street. Police officers at the scene detained the man and he was taken into custody. No injuries were reported.