Holding a Bernie Sanders puppet, Leslie Zukor cheers as she and others sing along to the song “Take It Personally” sung by Tae Phoenix at an event called Stop Trumpcare Day at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. The protest was organized by Indivisible, an organization of some 6,000 community groups nationally. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Holding a Bernie Sanders puppet, Leslie Zukor cheers as she and others sing along to the song “Take It Personally” sung by Tae Phoenix at an event called Stop Trumpcare Day at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. The protest was organized by Indivisible, an organization of some 6,000 community groups nationally. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Health-care bill protest in Everett: ‘A life-or-death issue’

Related: Senate GOP unveils ‘Obamacare’ overhaul, but not all aboard

How the Senate health bill compares to House, ‘Obamacare’

EVERETT — For Leslie Brown of Edmonds, Thursday’s rally at the Snohomish County Courthouse was the second time in two days that she participated in an event to bring attention to plans to replace Obamacare.

“This is a life-or-death issue,” Brown said of why she had joined in the daylong event. “People will die or live according to what’s decided.”

A bill to replace the federal health care law known as Obamacare has passed the U.S. House. The Senate proposal was unveiled Thursday, after being developed in secrecy, drawing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans. Senate Republicans said they hope to vote on the measure next week.

“What we’re trying to do is help people understand we will all be affected,” she said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House version of the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over the coming decade, while the number of people uninsured would grow to 23 million.

The proposed Senate version calls for deep cuts in Medicaid as well.

Thursday’s event, called Stop Trumpcare Day, was organized by Indivisible, an organization of some 6,000 community groups nationally. Its stated goal is resisting President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Larry Behrendt, 62, of Coupeville, helped organize Thursday’s courthouse event as well as four events earlier this week on Whidbey Island.

The courthouse event included singing, presentations on the health care bill, and handing out fliers on the health care issue.

Behrendt, who owns a small software business, said the events grew out of the concern that the Senate version of the health care bill could be introduced on the Senate floor “almost at any time, with no debate, and no committee hearings.

“We decided it was important that we respond in the positive, but in the loudest, most vocal way we could find,” he said.

Proposed Medicaid cuts could imperil health care for some 7 million veterans who get medical care through the program rather than through the Veterans Administration, Behrendt said.

Leslie Zukor, 32, of Mercer Island, works with the Washington State Democrats Disabilities Issues Caucus and Whole Washington.

“A number of our members are on Medicaid. They’re so worried, they’re losing sleep over it,” Zukor said.

She stood in front of the rally holding a Bernie Sanders puppet and told her story. When she was a freshman in college, she suffered a mental health breakdown, she said. At the time, she was preoccupied about paying for her care.

Half of the cost of her prescriptions were covered by her insurance. However, she incurred thousands of dollars annually in medical bills over the span of nearly a decade.

She and others at Whole Washington hope to submit an initiative for the 2018 or 2019 ballot asking voters to approve health care for all Washingtonians.

“If we can’t do it at a federal level, we’ll do it at the state level,” Zukor said.

'Stop Trumpcare Day' in Everett from Everett Herald on Vimeo.

Merran Gray, 69, of Freeland, worries about what the proposed health care bill may mean for her local hospital, WhidbeyHealth Medical Center. Medicaid cuts could jeopardize the future of rural and community hospitals, said Stephanie Hammer with the Whidbey chapter of Indivisible.

“If we have an emergency in the middle of the night and the ferries aren’t running, it could be life or death,” Gray said.

Like others at the rally, Brown, 62, said she worried about Medicaid program cuts included in the House bill. Those cuts would not only affect access to health care, but would reduce federal reimbursements to local hospitals, she said.

That’s why she was among those who stood vigil at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center in Coupeville on Wednesday.

Anita Dietrich, 61, of Everett, leads the Everett Resistance Movement, a group affiliated with Indivisible. Through Dietrich’s work with the group, she met families at risk of losing coverage if the bill passes.

A man she knew living with multiple sclerosis would no longer be able to live in his home because his medical treatment and meals would no longer be funded, Dietrich said. He could be forced to move into a care center. Another woman Dietrich met is recovering from addiction and could lose access to methadone programs.

“I don’t think people realize how critical this issue is,” she said. “I think insurance is a good thing. I think everyone deserves insurance.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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