Boise Demonstration Keeps Heat on Idaho Lawmakers Over Senate Healthcare Bill 

click to enlarge - William Fowkes and his daughter Eva kept the heat on Idaho lawmakers at a demonstration Wednesday. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • William Fowkes and his daughter Eva kept the heat on Idaho lawmakers at a demonstration Wednesday.
click to enlarge - Molly Page of Blaine County attended the demonstration against the Senate healthcare bill Wednesday. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Molly Page of Blaine County attended the demonstration against the Senate healthcare bill Wednesday.
Discussion in the U.S. Senate over a controversial healthcare bill may be paused during the Fourth of July recess but at a demonstration outside Sen. Mike Crapo's Boise office Wednesday, more than 200 people said loud and clear they're against the proposed law, which would reduce the number of Americans with insurance and make drastic cuts to Medicaid.

"Once these things are stripped away, there are going to be people on the street," said William Fowkes of Boise, who attended the demonstration with his daughter Eva, 30. Eva has cerebral palsy and relies on Medicaid to stay in a residential supported living facility.

Eva moved away from home when she was 21 years old. She requires nearly constant care, William said. It takes two people to get her out of her wheelchair—for baths or getting in and out of bed. She has a roommate at her current home, and her quality of life is good, but the cost of Eva's care is high.

"Any person paying for that kind of staff, it would bankrupt them," William said. Medicaid has made it possible for the Fowkes, though. Cuts to the program could mean Eva would have to move back in with her parents or be sent to an institution, where she wouldn't likely receive the same quality of care she gets now.

"It's a real balancing act: The whole thing could topple over if cuts are made," William said. "It's hard to look at Eva and say, 'Tough luck.'"

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate healthcare bill would reduce the number of insured Americans by 22 million by 2026. It would also reduce direct spending by $1.022 trillion in the same period, with a net reduction in the national deficit of $321 billion—mostly by cutting federal spending on Medicaid by 26 percent.

The bill would jolt the healthcare system in rural parts of Idaho, where a tax credit restructuring mechanism built into the bill would have a dire effect on the 40 percent of Idaho children currently on Medicaid and CHIP, as well as on seniors and people with disabilities. Bill Thomas, a social worker in McCall, came to Boise for the demonstration with a petition opposing the bill signed by around 10 Valley County-area physicians and nurses. Thomas believes the proposed law would shrink badly needed healthcare resources.

"We should be expanding, not contracting," he said.

Thomas wasn't the only demonstrator from out of town. Molly Page, founder of Indivisible Blaine County, said she worried about how the bill would affect children in her region, and she would like to see Republicans and Democrats get together and negotiate a healthcare bill—rather than have one party draft its own legislation behind closed doors. With Congress on recess for the national holiday, however, she said it's important for the Idaho delegation to know opposition to the bill is foremost on the minds of its constituents.

"We need to keep up the pressure," Page said.
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