Orlando protesters stage 'die-in' at Marco Rubio's office over health care bill


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Under the watchful eye of a cloaked Grim Reaper, protesters staged a "die-in" in front of tombstones outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's Orlando office on Tuesday to oppose the Republican health care bill.

The American Health Care Act is part of repealing and replacing Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in the House pushed the measure through with a close 217-213 vote last week. House Democrats were joined by 20 Republicans in opposing the bill, including Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Critics say the proposed legislation is actually a $346 billion tax cut for the rich that would gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions and potentially leave millions of Americans without health insurance. The bill has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but a previous version of the bill estimated 24 million people would be left uninsured. In Florida, the bill could have a particularly devastating effect – the state saw a record number of its residents sign up for Obamacare last year. For Florida's Future, one of the groups at the rally, says in a statement that repealing Obamacare would kill 43,000 people a year.

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Orlando activists say they want Rubio to stand up for Floridians and vote against the AHCA. In the past, Florida's junior senator has said Obamacare is "an absolute failure" that has led to "rising premiums, a collapse of the individual insurance market and fewer choices for patients." Melanie Gold, an organizer with Indivisible Central Florida, told the crowd of about 100 people gathered in front of Rubio's office that Obamacare was not perfect but it was loved anyway.

"The ACA as it stands was a start," she says. "There are ways to make it better, like adding a single-payer option. …But the GOP has been so intent on an ideology that has not proven to work for any industrialized country."

The crowd shouted back, "Shame, shame, shame!" Many in the group wore black funeral attire with signs that read, "RIP. Died of pre-existing conditions."

Gold says health care should be a basic right.

"What country tells their women that pregnancy is a pre-existing condition?" she says. "What country says if you have a mental issue you can have a gun but not health care? What kind of congressperson looks at someone with a brain tumor and tells them that he will not vote for a bill that threatens her life, and then votes for a bill that threatens her life?"

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Gary Mogensen, of Kissimmee, has been attending weekly protests in front of Rubio's office and around Orlando since President Donald Trump was inaugurated. Rubio has refused to hold a town hall or meet with protesters in Florida who have held regular demonstrations outside his state offices, saying once they only wanted a place to scream. His Jacksonville office and Tampa office have been forced to vacate over protests.

"Marco Rubio is acting like a little child by hiding in his office," Mogensen says. "Every letter I've sent to him, I've put down, 'Is this the week you're finally going to stand up to Trump? You couldn't do it during the campaign. You couldn't do it as a senator. When are you going to stand up to the fact that you stand between him and chaos?'"

The former educator says he doesn't see the resistance against Trump or other Republican policies dying down.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'll be here for the next six years," he says. "I will stand here, along with the people that we have, until Marco Rubio comes out from his little corner and talks to his constituents rather than hiding behind rich billionaires who he goes to fundraisers for."

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

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