Medical students march to Capitol Hill to protect Obamacare

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Medical students Megan Fuerst, Crystal Xue, Christian Hendrix, Nina Abon, Christopher Wong, Chisom Okezue and Max Ruben are some of the 175 School of Medicine and Health Sciences students who signed a petition to stop Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The next generation of doctors is rallying to save the Affordable Care Act.

One hundred and seventy-five GW medical students signed a national petition with more than 4,800 signatures from different medical schools to stop Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and five students from GW hand-delivered the petition on Capitol Hill last month. Students who participated in the campaign said they wanted to advocate for patients through conversations with senators, which they plan to do more in the future.

Christian Hendrix, a first-year medical student in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said medical students from other universities got in touch with GW medical students to join the campaign called #ProtectOurPatient.

The campaign aims to stop the repeal of the ACA and was started by Harvard Medical School students. Nearly 70 students from more than 150 medical institutions hand-delivered the petition to all 100 senators.

“What I most enjoyed was seeing different medical students come together. Some of them are residents already,” Hendrix said. “The most impressive thing to me is to meet diverse students around the nation and join together for one purpose.”

Hendrix said marching to Capitol Hill is not the only thing the students are doing to protect patients. Last week, 15 medical students hosted an event in Ross Hall where they shared stories about patients who benefited from the Affordable Care Act and held a three-minute moment of silence for the 30 million Americans who would lose access to health care in the case of an ACA repeal.

The future of the Affordable Care Act remains unclear as President Donald Trump signed executive orders to unwind the mandate. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are concerned that the bill will be repealed without any replacement.

While Trump deliberates and makes decisions on program and budget cuts, medical students say they are continuing to make calls on behalf of #ProtectOurPatients and the petition has climbed to nearly 5,000 signatures. Hendrix said this campaign will be a long-term project – even if the Affordable Care Act is saved – because care providers will always have opportunities to stand up for their patients and lobby on their behalf.

“We have other goals as well because ultimately, we’re protecting our patients, and patients always need a voice,” Hendrix said. “And we want to be that voice.”

Camilla Maybee, a second-year medical student, said students went to every senator’s office to hand them a copy of the petition.

“We were able to sit down with certain senators and staff to discuss what they thought and what they felt like,” Maybee said. “It felt very validating. Even though certain offices didn’t really agree with our petition, they’re still willing to hear us out and be very polite and let us engage.”

Maybee said the most frustrating part about the possible repeal of the health care law is that there are no current formal plans for a replacement policy.

“You want to repeal the ACA and take the time later maybe to put something in the place, but in the meantime there’s a lot of patients that don’t have another couple of years,” Maybee said. “If they can’t afford the medication, that’s it.”

Public health faculty members received national attention after publishing a report on the effects of repealing the Affordable Care Act that found 20 million people would be left uninsured.

Rayna Sobieski, a fourth-year medical student moving onto her residency, said the statistics show that the majority of people don’t want to repeal the ACA.

Most people don’t realize the real cost of health care, Sobieski said. Visiting an emergency room can easily cost $10,000 or $20,000, and when her grandfather stayed in a hospital for 10 days, it ended up costing $250,000, she said.

“So you just can’t pay out of pocket,” Sobieski said. “After Trump was elected, everyone was concerned about the repeal of ACA and the ramifications for the patients. So this was response to let Congress know, as future providers, that this is how we feel and how this will affect our future population.”

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