U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders attended a rally Sunday in Charleston billed as an effort to “protect our health care.” Supporters demanded that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., vote against the latest U.S. Senate health care bill.
“If either version passes the effects will have a crippling impact on communities all throughout our great state,” said Joshua Sword of the West Virginia American Federation of Labor. Sword, one of Sunday’s speakers, was referring to versions of the health care overhaul that have recently been passed by the House and Senate.
“Hospitals, drug treatment facilities and countless other specialized care providers will have to close their doors due to the loss of federal funding to the system,” he said.
Attendees were led through several chants pointed at Republican Senator Capito, including “lives are on the line.” Up until this point, she has said that she has “concerns” with the way the legislation is written, but hasn't announced how she plans to vote.
Speakers covered aspects of health care that would be impacted by the proposed legislation, such as Medicaid expansion, substance abuse treatment and the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
Sanders came on stage about an hour into the program to a wildly enthusiastic audience.
“The legislation that is coming before the Senate in a few days, the so called health care bill, will be the most devastating attack on the working class of this country in the modern history of the United States of America,” he said.
The Senate could vote on the proposed legislation as early as this week, before the July 4th recess. Critics say such a vote is too hasty, while supporters hope to push the bill through.
The rally was co-sponsored by 13 activist groups, including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. About 2,000 people attended.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.