Helena Pivarnik believes she’s alive today only because of the health care coverage she got through the Affordable Care Act. She’s a cancer survivor. Without coverage, she couldn’t afford chemotherapy.
It’s one of the reasons she’s one of approximately 50 South Florida residents who were protesting outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Doral under the blazing sun on Wednesday. Rubio is one of 50 votes needed to pass the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, the GOP’s answer to 'repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act.
“I had an operation a few years ago. I was unemployed, and now I am cancer free,” she says, “thanks to President Obama’s health care initiative.”
She says the ACA’s rough start, both politically and socially, parallels Social Security in 1935, insisting only time can solve the problems.
Local health care professionals and activists marched together, holding signs in front of their chests that read “Marco, stand up for us. We all need health care. Vote no for wealth care” and “Planned Parenthood saves lives.”
Sarah Stumbar, a doctor who practices family medicine in North Miami, fears for the removal of the Affordable Care Act. She worries it will hurt her patients, many of whom are low-income. Through their coverage with the ACA, her patients can access essential medical screening exams like mammograms and MRI’s. Without it, they are priced out of health coverage.
“I’m concerned that it will mean that I can’t do what’s right by my patients all the time because of a system that is broken and breaking more,” Stumbar said.
Republican leadership unveiled the bill last week. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the proposed bill would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. Rubio has yet to say how he’ll vote.
WLRN reached out to Rubio’s office for a response, but did not receive a comment in time for the publication of this story.
Wednesday’s protest marked the second time in less than a week that protesters demonstrated outside of his office demanding the Republican senator vote "no." Similar protests were held in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando.
Update: Rubio's office responded to WLRN's request via email directing our reporter to watch the senator's Facebook Live video posted Wednesday morning.