About 200 people packed the Capitol Rotunda in support of health care programs on Sunday afternoon. The Save Our Healthcare rally in Helena ran alongside others in Missoula and Bozeman.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act and other programming will cause "unprecedented chaos," according to one speaker at the rally. Speakers told the crowd how the potential changes will impact them as well as all Americans who rely on ACA for their medical expenses.
Lesa Evers, member of the Blackfeet Tribe and former director of Indian affairs under Gov. Brian Schweitzer, said she didn't realize how different health care was in Indian Country until she experienced the upgraded system through ACA. She shared how her single mother survived cancer twice. A visit to the doctor was a dreaded, all-day event, she said.
Reverting back to old ways would be devastating, Evers said.
With current health care options in place, Montanans -- specifically those in Indian Country -- can focus on working and raising their family with fewer worries about what would happen if they become ill, she said.
Gov. Steve Bullock echoed Evers' sentiments.
"It is helping hardworking Montanans live better, healthier lives," Bullock said in a written statement read at the rally. Bullock was unable to attend Sunday's event.
Bullock said leaving patients without backup for health care is irresponsible and "going backwards."
The rally, hosted by the Lewis and Clark County Democratic Central Committee and Our Revolution Helena, was to show support while the fate of health insurance coverage for 30 million people is being decided in Congress. It was part of a national day of action in which more than 50 “Our First Stand: Save Health Care” rallies were scheduled from coast to coast in a major show of grassroots support for critical health care programs under assault by Republicans in the new session of Congress, organizers said.
Speaker Minority Leader Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena, voiced concern about the devastation that will be felt if laws are repealed. Many of those in power do not seem to fathom the hardship thousands of Montanans will face if the movement goes forward.
According to a new report by the Montana Budget and Policy Center, 142,000 Montanans face uncertainty concerning health care coverage with the threat of ACA repeal and a drastic Montana Medicaid cutback, which would affect the 61,000 Montanans who gained health care under the Montana Medicaid expansion.
One of the organizers, Frank Kromkowski with Our Revolution Helena, said the gathering was to support the elderly, disabled veterans, children and others who will suffer with the repeal.
"Our message is simple and straightforward: You are not going to get away with it," he said.