Protecting the Lives of America’s Youngest

Remember Jimmy Kimmel’s tear-filled monologue pleading that all children in America should have healthcare, on behalf of his newborn son who underwent heart surgery? Theresa Bohannan, a speaker at yesterday’s “Speaking Out to Protect our Care” event, has a similar story.

Theresa’s son, Dean, was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect at only 20 weeks. Dean was born with only one ventricle, and had to undergo three palliative surgeries to “correct” his heart. After Dean’s first open heart surgery, their family’s bill was a staggering 1.3 million dollars.

Theresa Bohannan speaking about her son, Dean.

Theresa praised the Affordable Care Act — particularly, its elimination of lifetime caps and the ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. “The Affordable Care Act is life-saving for children like Dean,” Theresa stated with tear-filled eyes. “They [those trying to repeal the ACA] should be ashamed of what they are doing.”

The clusters of passionate citizens that gathered Wednesday on the East Lawn of the Capitol building, clutching signs that read “Dissent is Patriotic” and “Save My Care,” agree with Theresa. Their purpose was simple: to make noise in order to demonstrate to Congress the direct impact their actions will have on the American public.

Additionally, Felicia Willems of North Carolina (who is currently a campaign director at MomsRising) spoke about her son, Ethan. Ethan came on stage with his mom and hugged her as she talked. Felicia described how Ethan was diagnosed with a vascular tumor and spent two years in and out of the hospital. Felicia had to quit her job to care for him, and lost her private health insurance. Thankfully, Ethan qualified for Medicaid — which saved his life. “Needing healthcare is not a weakness,” Felicia said.

Felicia Willems with her son, Ethan.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders even made surprise guest appearances, stressing the critical need for Congress to protect the health of all Americans.

Bernie Sanders: “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”

Several advocacy organizations (see the full list here) hosted the event, and many other senators came out to give remarks, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Each senator spoke about healthcare being a basic human right. They stressed that the proposed healthcare bill denies health coverage from millions of people for the purpose of giving tax cuts to the very wealthy. They demanded that the Senate bill have ample time for debate and amendments. Finally, they urged their colleagues to think about how these actions will affect the country’s vulnerable populations.

Perhaps what is most concerning about the uncertainty of healthcare is what will happen to arguably the most vulnerable population: children.

Currently, 95 percent of children have health coverage, a historic high. However, with the proposed bill, Medicaid will be cut by 839 billion dollars. This will inevitably have a severe negative impact for over 38 million children who get their insurance through Medicaid.

Dr. Lee Beers of the Child Health Advocacy Institute, another speaker at the rally, said it best: “We can’t just think of children as little adults. They’re people with specific needs.”

It’s too bad the Senate doesn’t think the same way.