LITTLE ROCK — The heat of a sunny summer day did not deter Anne Pilcher from donning a homemade papier-mache Donald Trump head and joining a protest Thursday afternoon outside the building that houses the Little Rock offices of Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton.
Pilcher, a resident of the Mablevale community in southwest Little Rock and a member of the liberal activist groups MoveOn.org and Our Revolution, said she and her adult daughter have pre-existing medical conditions and would see their health care jeopardized if protections under the Affordable Care Act are rolled back under proposed Republican legislation.
She also said she was concerned that the Senate’s GOP health-care bill was drafted behind closed doors by a group said to include Cotton.
“You do not do something that is going to impact so many people without a tremendous amount of input,” Pilcher said.
Several groups joined forces to hold protests at Republican U.S. senators’ offices across the country this week in opposition to the Senate’s bill aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
During the noon hour Thursday, about 35 people were seen protesting on the sidewalk outside the building near the Arkansas state Capitol where Boozman and Cotton have their Little Rock offices. Inside the building, 16 people were protesting in the lobby of Boozman’s office and a little more than 30 were protesting in the lobby of Cotton’s office or in the hallway just outside it.
A majority of the protesters were women. Many held signs stating support for Planned Parenthood, one of the groups that helped organize this week’s protests. The Senate health-care bill would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.
Andrea Reaves of Benton, who uses a wheelchair because of a spine injury, was among the protesters outside Cotton’s office. She said the Senate bill’s cuts to Medicaid could mean she would have to be institutionalized.
“If this passes, there’s going to be many, many Arkansans that are going to be institutionalized,” said Reaves, an advocate with the disability rights group ADAPT.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Senate bill, which had not come up for a vote by the time senators left Washington for the July 4 recess, would cause 22 million Americans to lose health insurance by 2026. A similar bill approved by the House in May would cause 23 million Americans to lose insurance by that year, according to the CBO.
Both bills eventually would end federal funding for states’ Medicaid expansion programs. Arkansas’ program has provided private health insurance to more than 300,000 low-income residents.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has warned that the Senate bill would massively shift Medicaid costs to states and has urged the Senate to rework it.
Boozman and Cotton have not stated positions on the bill.