AUGUSTA — Phil and Sarah Groman traveled from Union to the capital Saturday afternoon to stand with about 200 people to defend the Affordable Care Act.
While they don’t get their health insurance through the program, they have a 27-year-old son with a pre-existing condition who does.
Without the Affordable Care Act, Phil Groman said, his son probably would not have insurance.
The Gromans weren’t among those carrying signs, but they were among the people across the country who were expected to turn out at rallies in a show of support for the act that has allowed people who could not afford or qualify to get health insurance.
President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to immediately repeal and replace the act, which is also popularly known as Obamacare. Shortly after he took the oath of office on Jan. 20, Trump signed an executive order that’s intended to start dismantling the act by directing federal agencies to interpret the law loosely by giving them permission to waive, grant exemptions, defer or delay the program’s rules. At the same time, the Republican-led Congress is considering options to replace the program. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has collaborated on a plan that would let individual states keep the Affordable Care Act if they wish or develop alternate plans.
In Maine, the Affordable Care Act covers about 80,000 residents. Nationally, about 20 million are covered.
“Healthcare is a right,” Groman said at the close of the hour-long rally held between the state house and the Burton M. Cross State Office Building.
That theme was echoed by speakers at the Maine Rally to Save the Affordable Care Act & Social Security and on signs carried by those attending.
“The lesson of why we’re here,” Augusta Mayor David Rollins said, “is that there is power in demonstrating and there is power in voting.”
Rollins, who said he’d never in his life stood up at a demonstration, said he’s working to bring back the country for all its people.
Rollins invited Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett to speak.
“I’m here as an individual and a citizen,” Harnett said. “What troubles me most is that as you look at the world and its civilized nations, every single one has universal health care except this one. What troubles me is that the people in Washington who are making decisions that affect 20 million people have the best health care protection in the world, and we pay for it. It’s unacceptable.”
Other speakers called on Democrats to find a way to work together and to overcome the “corporatization” of the party that leaves behind working-class people. They urged those present to engage younger people in political process and encouraged people to bring resolutions in support of the Affordable Care Act to their town councils and boards of selectmen so they can be included on the agendas for their annual Town Meetings, which start next month across the state.
John Upham, of Litchfield, who joined Move On following his retirement from General Dynamics, urged people to continue attending events.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “Support the candidates who will support you.”
For Sarah Groman, attending rallies such as the Women’s March on Maine rally that she and her husband traveled to in January, is a way to show support.
“It helps me sort out in my mind what’s the priority,” she said, and it shows there are like-minded people in Maine.
Saturday’s event was sponsored by MoveOn.org’s Resistance Recess, which is encouraging people to reach out to their congressional representatives while they are on break. It’s just one of several groups who are supporting activism under the Trump administration.
“All the groups coming together, this is what we have to keep doing,” event organizer Roger Leisner said.
Jessica Lowell — 621-5632