‘Die-in’ illustrates potential consequences Idaho faces without health care

Demonstrators participate in a die-in Wednesday in front of the Idaho Capitol to protest proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Demonstrators participate in a die-in Wednesday in front of the Idaho Capitol to protest proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act. rbrown@idahostatesman.com

With national fears building around the threat of losing health care, an estimated 80 people gathered in front of Idaho’s Statehouse on Wednesday evening to protest recent health care debates in Congress.

United Vision for Idaho helped organize what they called an “accountability vigil and die-in,” in which protesters laid quietly on the ground, as if they were dead, holding tombstones. The die-in represented the potential deaths that could come for those left without accessible and affordable health care.

The protest came amid the U.S. Senate’s so-far unsuccessful attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), and protesters opposed several of the proposed replacement bills, or the lack of replacement options.

Concerns by protesters included Medicaid cuts, being denied insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and losing coverage altogether.

The cardboard tombstones protesters held read statements such as “Food over meds” or “Killed by a preventable disease” or “Died in a nursing home at age 25.”

Despite getting a vote Tuesday in the U.S. Senate to open debate, Wednesday’s proposed health care bill failed to move forward. That legislation would have, in two years, repealed the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and eliminated tax credits that help people purchase individual health insurance. The pitched legislation also would have immediately repealed the individual mandate while continuing the ACA’s requirement that insurers offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

The Senate killed the bill with a 55-to-45 vote. The 55 votes in opposition included seven Republicans.

Without making progress on a path to a repeal and a replacement, the Senate Republicans may look to scale back the ACA’s regulations, leaving most of the 2010 law in place, according to the Tribune Washington Bureau.

The so-called skinny repeal hasn’t been made public, but possible options would be the repeal of only three Obamacare provisions, including mandates for individuals to buy health insurance and that large employers offer it, as well as the medical device tax.

Medicaid coverage remains an ongoing issue on the state level as well.

The Idaho Legislature failed to expand its Medicaid program during the 2017 session. As many as 78,000 Idahoans fall into the so-called “gap,” which includes residents who don’t make enough money to qualify for health care subsidies through Idaho’s health care exchange, but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

Despite debate this year, the Idaho Legislature did not expand or change Medicaid in the state.