Fayette County

Passionate Lexington crowd rallies to save Affordable Care Act

Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper speaks during a rally to save health care at Courthouse Plaza in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, February 25, 2017.
Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper speaks during a rally to save health care at Courthouse Plaza in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, February 25, 2017.

Against the threat of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, about 180 Kentuckians rallied Saturday at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza against the action and the Kentucky politicians who want to make it a reality.

“Health care is a human right,” said rally speaker Michael Winkler, an associate professor of Radiology and Internal Medicine at the University of Kentucky, as the audience cheered.

The rally, hosted by Our Revolution Central Kentucky, a Kentucky-based chapter of a political organization aimed at advancing a “progressive” agenda, intended to bring attention to the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Similar rallies in other states also took place Saturday.

Winkler provided a personal anecdote to illustrate why he thinks health care is a right. While he was a trainee at a hospital in Los Angeles, he encountered a boy who had pneumonia, he said. Pus had collected in his chest and collapsed one of his lungs, according to Winkler. Winkler said he and other trainee doctors wanted to treat the boy, but needed an anesthesiologist to help them. However, the anesthesiologist was “not good with kids,” according to Winkler, and decided to send the boy to another hospital, which would have delayed treatment by a day. Winkler said he and the other trainee doctors tried to persuade the anesthesiologist to reconsider, but they failed because the boy’s father could not afford insurance.

“That was cruel,” Winkler said. “It was unjust. It was wrong. It was morally wrong.”

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010. President Donald Trump has pledged to repeal and replace it, but no explicit details have been mentioned. In mid-January, the House of Representatives passed a 2017 budget that would lay the groundwork for its repeal. Kentucky went from 20.4 percent of residents without health insurance in 2013 to 7.5 percent in 2015, according to Gallup, largely because of state Medicaid expansion tied to the Affordable Care Act.

Some rally attendees spoke about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them.

Catherine Jydstrup said she received health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after she was previously insured by her husband’s job.

“I was really happy with it, especially the first year,” she said. “The second year, it was a little bit more expensive, but it was all right.”

A few rally attendees were critical of Republican politicians who have spoken out against the ACA including Trump, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky. One criticism of ACA concerns increased premium costs.

Nancy Jo Kemper, who was the Democratic candidate for Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District in November and lost to Rep. Andy Barr, spoke harshly of her former opponent and encouraged those at the rally to contact him.

“Let’s show Congressman Barr what it means to be deluged by telephone calls, my friends,” she said.