Over a thousand people gathered Saturday at the International Community School in Oakland for a town hall meeting to discuss Alameda County’s efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act. The event was organized by the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents California’s 13th district, which includes Oakland. The school gym holding the town hall was completely jammed and reached the fire safety capacity, according to the school’s security staff, so not everyone who came was able to get in.
Those who managed to get inside got a chance to submit public comments on pressing health care issues and ask the congresswoman what steps she is taking to make sure the Affordable Care Act remains in place. President Donald Trump and Republican Congressional leaders have vowed to “repeal and replace” the Obama administration’s healthcare legislation, although they have not yet publicly presented a replacement plan.
“It is important that, first of all, people come out and hear stories of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act and what impact it would have if it were repealed. Second of all, it is important for people to know that we are together in this resistance movement against this anti-American backwards Trump agenda,” said Lee in an interview with Oakland North.
Some public comments read during the event evoked strong and emotional reactions in the audience, like the one from a mother whose 3-year-old daughter was denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition: she had ear infection. Another person read a thank-you note from a single parent whose child needed a heart surgery and could not have afforded it without the Affordable Care Act.
Many Alameda County residents who came to the meeting said they are concerned about what is going to happen to their current benefits if the healthcare legislation gets repealed.
Syan Palakurtehy, a small business owner from Berkeley, said he is worried that his employees will lose coverage. Retired Oakland resident Steve Ghidinelly said he is afraid that his Medicare will be next on the cutting block if the Affordable Care Act is no longer available.
But healthcare was not the only issue on the table. Some came to the meeting just to seek guidance from local officials. Immigration, racial issues and women’s rights were just several items on the long list of concerns people wanted to bring to their congressional district representative’s attention.
“I’m looking for some answers, motivation and inspiration about how to get through the next four years,” said Oakland resident Ellie Casson.
“I don’t even know where to start. There are so many pillars of our democracy that are at risk right now,” said Christa Dahlstrom, a member of Indivisible East Bay, a community organization that opposes Trump’s political agenda.
Click on the video above to see more from the town hall meeting.