Protesters Rally Against GOP Health Care Bill at Capitol

13 May 2017 — Charleston Gazette Mail
 By Erin Beck, Staff writer

Sumer Cave’s mother lost the ability to speak before she died.

Her mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the mouth and esophagus when Cave was 14.

Cave, 21, spoke about her mother at an event held Friday afternoon in the lower rotunda of the state Capitol to protest the American Health Care Act.

About 30 people gathered in protest of the bill, currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. The American Health Care Act, proposed by Republican leaders, cuts an estimated $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and would end Medicaid expansion in West Virginia, which has brought health care to about 170,000 West Virginians. It also would eliminate the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, among numerous other controversial provisions. All three members of the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia already have voted in favor of the bill.

Organizers for the event included West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, West Virginia Together for Medicaid Coalition and the Alliance for Health Care Security, according to a release.

Cave said her mother was sick for some time, but wasn’t diagnosed until she became eligible for Medicaid through Medicaid expansion, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. About 64,000 women in West Virginia gained Medicaid coverage in the first year of the expansion, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

It was too late.

“I believe if the Affordable Care Act had been active a year or two earlier she would be here,” Cave said, “but here I am to tell her story, because even though she’s not physically here, she still lives inside of me.”

Cave, a student at Concord University, also became eligible for Medicaid after expansion. She uses it for counseling appointments, in which she talks about the loss of her mother. She also gets the yearly checkups her mom couldn’t afford.

She also works three jobs, in service industries. About 50,000 West Virginians with Medicaid coverage in 2015 were working women ages 18-64, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Her mom would write her thoughts down in notebooks before she died. Cave and her brother later found some of her scribblings. Their mother had tried to erase them, because she didn’t want them to see.

“She said she was scared and that she didn’t understand why she was dying, but I know why she did,” Cave said. Her voice was loud and clear.

“She didn’t have affordable health care,” she said. “This is important to every single American that lives in this country, whether you need it or not. Just because you don’t need it doesn’t meant the rest of us don’t.

“So [Sen.] Shelley Capito, vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Don’t let other people die because of your decision,” she said, to applause.

“Money should not matter when it comes to saving lives,” she said in an i

nterview after. “They can’t let millions of Americans die because of money.”

Carey Jo Grace, an organizer with the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, was another speaker. She said that while Medicaid covered her prenatal care and care for her children, she suffered from teeth abscesses and untreated mental illness because she couldn’t afford care.

“I put off getting my gallbladder removed until I couldn’t walk across the room,” she said.

“I am really, really tired of politicians in Washington and right here in West Virginia looking me in the eye and telling me that poor people are looking for a handout and that they’re lazy, because that’s not true,” she said. “Most people are like me, they go through a tough time in their life, they need some help.”

Grace suggested that she would have benefited from expanded Medicaid. She currently gets coverage through her husband’s insurance provider, because her employer does not provide it.

“Health care is something the rest of world has accepted as being a human right and it’s about time we do it here in the United States,” she said.

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5163, https://www.facebook.com/erinbeckwv/“>Facebook.com/erinbeckwv, or follow https://twitter.com/erinbeckwv“>@erinbeckwv on Twitter.