HARRISONBURG — Valerie Serrels has struggled to pay for health care.
The Bridgewater resident and mother of five spent 10 years without health insurance because “I simply could not afford” it.
Two years ago, she received coverage under the Affordable Care Act for herself and two of her children who live at home. She wants congressional Republicans to know repealing it will hurt her.
“The Affordable Care Act provided a way for the three of us to get a good health care plan at an affordable cost,” Serrels said. “I can’t imagine moving back to a very vulnerable and uncertain place.”
Serrels was one of about 65 people to rally Tuesday on Court Square in support of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, as the 115th Congress began its first session.
With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and President-elect Donald Trump taking office this month, the GOP has made repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law a top priority.
Critics say the law has hurt businesses and is economically unsustainable, among other issues.
“Even though President Obama is still in office, Congress today was beginning the process of repealing one of his signature achievements,” said Tim Jost, chairman of the Rockingham County Democratic Committee, a Washington & Lee University law professor who has written extensively on health care law.
Tuesday’s rally, attended by community activists including Stan Maclin and former Harrisonburg Councilman Kai Degner, was sponsored by Virginia Organizing, a grass-roots organization “dedicated to challenging injustice,” according to its website.
Attendees flashed signs reading, among other things, “Coverage Means Survival,” “Honk 4 Healthcare” and “Access To Health Care Is A Basic Human Right” before marching around Court Square.
Jost said the law benefits 1,610 Harrisonburg residents and 3,765 Rockingham County residents, citing numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“These are our friends; these are our neighbors; these are people we go to church with,” he said.
Organizers displayed signs with the phone numbers of Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, and urged attendees to call and make their voices heard.
Jost said attendees hope Goodlatte, a fierce critic of the law, could be swayed from repealing it.
“Maybe it’s futile, but my hope is that Congressman Goodlatte will listen to us,” he said. “We’re his constituents. He’s representing us in Congress.”
Republicans have repeatedly said they would replace the law with a better one, but Jost doubted they could.
“They’ve had six years to come up with a replacement and haven’t yet,” he said. “Why should we trust them to do so in another year or two?”
Contact Nolan Stout at 574-6278 or email@example.com