LITTLE ROCK — Protesters opposed to the Senate health-care bill demonstrated Friday at the Little Rock office of Sen. Tom Cotton, who is said to have been among the small group of Republican senators who crafted the draft bill behind closed doors.
“Stop the bill that kills the poor!” was among the slogans the protesters chanted during the three-hour event organized by Arkansas groups affiliated with the liberal activist group Indivisible.
A little over 20 people were taking part in the protest at 12:30 p.m. Friday, but participants said people were coming and going throughout the event. Cotton’s staff was allowing about 10 people at a time to sit on chairs or the floor in the office’s lobby while the rest stood in the hallway outside the office in the Victory Building across the street from the state Capitol.
“I’m concerned that (the bill) cuts Medicaid, I’m concerned that it does away with some pre-existing condition protections that we have,” said Julie McDonald of Greenbrier. “I actually suffer from chronic illnesses, so some conditions being cut or premiums being raised on people with those definitely worries me and affects me.”
McDonald said she also was concerned about the more than 300,000 Arkansans who have obtained health-care coverage under the state’s Medicaid expansion program. The bill would phase out federal funding for states’ medicaid expansion programs.
“I hope that our state legislators are letting (Cotton) know how that could hurt our state budget,” McDonald said.
Joyce Schimenti of Bismarck, who said that as a social worker she has worked in mental health for 40 years, said that under the bill “states are going to be able to pick from certain services and decide not to cover them. Here’s the thing: They can decide against covering mental health.”
The bill, the Senate’s modified version of a measure the House approved last month to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act, could receive a vote on the Senate floor next week.
A spokeswoman for Cotton said in an email Friday that Cotton is “still in the process of reviewing the bill.”
A spokeswoman for Arkansas’ other senator, Republican John Boozman, said Boozman also was continuing to review the draft bill Friday.