Protesters demand Rep. Bost defend Affordable Care Act


Protesters gathered at the office of Republican Rep. Mike Bost on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, to demand he support the Affordable Care Act. Bost twice voted to repeal the act while former President Barack Obama was in office and has said he supports an alternative approach to providing health care for Americans. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

By Bill Lukitsch

Scores of demonstrators gathered outside the Carbondale office of U.S. Rep. Mike Bost on Tuesday, calling on him to support the Affordable Care Act as House Republican leaders have rolled out a preliminary plan to repeal and replace it.

Led by advocacy groups Action for a Better Tomorrow, Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Indivisible 12 Illinois and Citizen Action Illinois, the protest began in the parking lot of the Hunter Building at 300 E. Main St. Residents of Illinois’ 12th Congressional District brought signs, yelled chants and shared stories of how the law’s repeal would affect their lives.

Miriam Link-Mullison, a Jackson County Health Department administrator, told the crowd the uninsured rate in the county has reduced threefold since 2013 — from 21 percent to 7 percent of its residents — because of the Affordable Care Act. The law is estimated to serve some 20 million Americans, and Link-Mullison noted that 8,000 Jackson County residents are directly enrolled in its health care plans.


“It has also increased our focus on quality care and provision at both the doctor’s office and (in) our community,” Link-Mullison said.

Fran Jaffe, a community activist and supporter of the health care law, told other demonstrators the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare, gave her the chance to get life-saving care she otherwise might not have had access to.

“For most of my adult life, I’ve had absolutely no insurance, thus I’ve had little to no medical access other than the emergency room,” she said. “Until the ACA kicked in.”

When Jaffe fell ill with a heart condition in 2015, she spent eight days in the hospital and racked up what would have cost her thousands of dollars in medical bills. She said her initial reluctance to seek treatment stemmed from living most of her health without ready access to medical care, and the coverage she receives under the Affordable Care Act persuaded her to seek treatment.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” she said.

About 30 minutes after the demonstration began, Carbondale police officers arrived to disperse the crowd from private property. Some of those in attendance reacted with chants rebuking Bost, but quickly moved to the sidewalk in front of the Hunter Building to continue protesting.

At issue for protesters is the preliminary plan House Republicans that would cut $1 trillion in federal funding for Medicaid over 10 years. The sum is part of an expansion to the program House Republicans seek to remove. States could opt to continue funding the expansion on their own dime, but the removal of federal funds would create a financial burden that is expected to be unaffordable for some.


The proposal would also remove provisions within the Affordable Care Act that penalize businesses and individuals for not enrolling in the health care plan.

Bost twice voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and has said he supports efforts furthered by President Donald Trump and House Republicans to repeal and replace the legislation. He was not present at the demonstration but area activism groups have requested he attend a town hall meeting Thursday.

George O’Connor, the communications director for Bost’s office, said in a statement Thursday that in-person town hall meetings “have been derailed across the country in an effort to disrupt the honest conversation that representatives need to have with their constituents.”

O’Connor said Bost wants to ensure an unimpeded conversation with residents of the 12th District and is open to receiving both positive and negative feedback. The representative recently hosted a town hall meeting over telephone to reach 85,000 constituents, O’Connor said.

He also noted that Bost recently held 12 individual constituent meetings, talked to health care professionals at two southern Illinois hospitals and spoke with protesters outside his Belleville office.

Campus editor Bill Lukitsch can be reached at 618-536-3326, [email protected] or on Twitter @lukitsbill.

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Note: An earlier version of this report indicated that Rep. Mike Bost met with 12 constituents individually. He held 12 individual meetings with multiple constituents.