TAMPA — Even as experts struggle to grasp the cost and impact of the latest proposed replacement bill for Obamacare, Tampa resident Delores Grayson knows this much: "My medication is very important, and if they pass something I can't afford I might as well be dead."
Grayson was among a few dozen lobbyists, politicians and everyday citizens who gathered in West Tampa on Wednesday to vent their frustrations about proposed health care changes to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio who has yet to take a public position on the bill.
The Florida Republican wasn't there — only a cardboard cutout of him was in the room. So Grayson, a retired grandmother and volunteer with the nonprofit Organize Florida, told the roomful of protesters about the recent triple-bypass heart surgery that left her reliant on $600 worth of medication each month for survival.
Paying for the medicine on her own would be impossible, Grayson said.
"I paid my dues. I'm retired and I want the chance to see my grandkids grow up and enjoy my life and work with my community," she said. "This medication has given me a chance to do that, but I shouldn't have to be a millionaire to afford it."
The event, organized by the super PAC For Florida's Future, was part of a statewide "Day of Action'' to urge Rubio to reject the Senate's proposal. Speakers noted statistics claiming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Better Care Reconciliation Act would reduce the ranks of insured people by 23 million, leave more than 51 million people uninsured over the next 10 years and could result in 43,000 deaths annually.
Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, joined speakers from the Florida-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood, VoteVets.org, Florida Council of Churches and the Florida chapter of the AFL-CIO in decrying the bill.
Should the bill pass, more than $839 billion will be cut from Medicaid funding, Shaw said. A June 2017 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that half of Florida's children and three in five nursing home residents depend on Medicaid and the state's Children's Health Insurance Program.
"I don't understand what the good part is. I don't understand why Republicans continue to push this," Shaw said. "I do understand why they did it in secret, because it's terrible.''
Marc Rodrigues, an organizer with the Florida AFL-CIO, said the only solution is to push the U.S. closer toward a single-payer health care system. More than 181,000 jobs in Florida and 3 million nationwide could be at risk under the proposed bill, Rodrigues said, leading to a $1.5 trillion loss for Florida's gross product. Those at-risk jobs are mainly in the senior care industry, which is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the nation, he said.
"The cuts to Medicaid would trigger widespread layoffs in this sector, which could disproportionately affect females and workers of color," Rodrigues said. "Where are these people supposed to go when laid off from jobs?"
Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.