'Save My Care' advocates in Philly defend Obamacare with personal stories

Tyheera Sanders speaks at a "Save My Care" cross-country bus tour stop in Philadelphia on Wednesday January 25, 2017.

The owner of a small business in Narberth said she would be forced to close if the Affordable  Care Act is repealed without a comparable replacement. A caregiver said the law was a lifesaver not just for herself but for her grandfather, siblings, and cousins. A pediatrician recalled treating a premature baby whose care would have surpassed the old lifetime benefit limits  — banned by the ACA — before the child was even out of intensive care. 

They were among those who shared their stories Wednesday at the Philadelphia stop of a "Save My Care" cross-country bus tour. Organizers hoped the small event would build support for a Thursday rally at 11 a.m. in Thomas Paine Plaza to protest Republican plans to repeal the ACA, better known as Obamacare.

A wide array of groups is planning that gathering during the three-day Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia that President Trump is scheduled to address during a luncheon on Thursday.

Andrea Deutsch, a diabetic, wants the pro-business president to know that killing Obamacare would not benefit her small business in Narberth, Spot's — The Place for Paws.  "I take four shots a day to keep me alive," she said at Wednesday's event. Losing the ACA, and its prohibition on refusing coverage or hiking up rates for people like Deutsch who have pre-existing conditions  would be devastating, she said.

An analysis last week by the liberal-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found that 1.1 million Pennsylvanias would lose their health insurance if the ACA is repealed but not replaced, the state's projected budget deficit would rise by $1.4 million, and 137,000 jobs would disappear. The personal finance website WalletHub reported Wednesday that Pennsylvania would lose more jobs than all but three other states and the District of Columbia. 

Tyheera Sanders, a caregiver in Philadelphia, said the expansion of Medicaid —an ACA entitlement that some Republicans want to convert to block grants to the states — helped her entire family gain insurance after her mother had a breakdown.

Kate Wallis, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, specializes in developmental disorders like autism and Down syndrome. "All of my cases have a pre-existing conditions," she said, "just by being born with disabilities."

She remembered treating a baby who was born at 24 weeks. Half of infants delivered around the age of viability do not survive. This one did.

"Before the ACA, she would have reached her lifetime cap [on benefits] before leaving the NICU," Wallis said.

Just 15 percent of primary care physicians support repealing the law, according to a survey published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among doctors who voted for Trump, 38 percent said they wanted the law repealed.

Less than half of the 426 respondents favored decreasing insurance regulations to allow, for example, companies to sell across state lines, according to the paper, which was coauthored by David Grande, a physician and policy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. That proposal is supported by President Trump and many Republicans.

Also Wednesday, Gov. Wolf  sent a  letter inviting House Speaker Paul Ryan to visit a substance abuse treatment center with him.

"Through Medicaid expansion, 63,000 Pennsylvanians suffering from addiction accessed drug and alcohol treatment. I hope you can join me to see firsthand how this epidemic is hurting the state you visit this week and how access to treatment through Medicaid is keeping people alive,” Wolf wrote.