Nationwide tour supporting healthcare coverage stops in Janesville

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Jim Dayton
Sunday, August 13, 2017

JANESVILLE—A handful of people spent Saturday afternoon in Janesville’s Lower Courthouse Park to support healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The rally, called Drive for Our Lives, was part of a nationwide bus tour that opposed the Republican Party’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The tour began last month on the Pacific coast, and Janesville was its 10th stop. The route has targeted states or Congressional districts whose Republican representatives voted for a partial repeal of Obamacare, Drive for Our Lives spokeswoman Remi Yamamoto said.

Previous tour stops were in large cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver and drew heavy crowds, Yamamoto said.

The Janesville event, happening in the smallest city on the tour so far, was lightly attended. About two dozen people came who were not organizers or speakers, but it did draw visitors from Madison, Oak Creek and Racine.

With the event happening in Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, several speakers criticized his prominent role in the national healthcare debate. Small signs reading “Where’s Paul Ryan?” that depicted the congressman as “Where’s Waldo?” were available as a handout.

Cathy Myers, one of several Democrats who are challenging Ryan in 2018, said he is not following his stated desire to offer affordable healthcare for all. She has met people in the 1st District who told her they would lose coverage under Republican healthcare proposals.

Other people in attendance echoed her belief.

Shirley Yanasak, from Oak Creek, is a four-year survivor of breast cancer. This would qualify her for a pre-existing condition and hinder her ability to obtain coverage if she got cancer again, she said.

With Republicans struggling to find support for a new plan to replace Obamacare, Yanasak said she struggles with the daily uncertainty.

“(The news hasn’t) been in my favor. It’s not making me feel comfortable at all,” she said. “It makes me feel unsettled because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

State Assembly representatives Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, and Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, spoke during the rally. Anderson discussed the drunk driving accident that killed his parents and brother and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

He said he had little interest in politics to that point, but he decided he needed to get involved to provide healthcare coverage for all. He believes his story and the stories of many others can play an impactful role in the healthcare debate.

“There’s a real power in storytelling. When you hear about the millions of people who are going to lose their health insurance because of what the Republicans are trying to do, it can be difficult to get a personal feel for that,” he said. “But when you hear someone’s story about either losing healthcare or having problems with the current healthcare system, you can relate to that.”

Carla Quirk and Janet LaBrie, both Janesville residents, questioned the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare without having another plan already in place.

Like Yanasak, Quirk criticized the uncertainty surrounding the future of healthcare, saying it has led to unnecessary worry for those who could potentially lose coverage. She hoped bipartisanship could return to the healthcare discussion, she said.

“Sixty years ago, the legislators would come together … and do what’s best for everybody,” Quirk said. “They became a nonpartisan unit. Thy set their partisanship aside and did what’s best for everyone.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to get back to that?”

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