Residents rally at Rep. Hartzler's office ahead of GOP health care vote

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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents rallied in front of U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler's office Thursday morning, asking the Missouri congresswoman to vote against the GOP health care bill. 

Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Republican health care plan, formally known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Hartzler, a Republican, is expected to vote yes to the bill's passage. 

Despite this, residents still showed up to Hartzler's office to voice their opposition. 

Sarah Gentry, policy director at Missouri Health Care for All, said she was there to urge Hartzler to protect the health care of her constituents. Gentry said the projection that millions could lose their health care under the GOP's health care plan was the most concerning part to her.

"We have heard from thousands of Missourians all across the state that are concerned the American Health Care Act will cause them to lose their health insurance," Gentry said. 

Another protester, Pat Holt was not concerned about her health care as much as her daughter's. 

"My daughter didn't have health care, she had a thyroid condition," Holt said. "Then she was able to get onto the Affordable Care Act and now she's a productive member of society. If the Affordable Care Act is done away with then she will no longer get her thyroid medication, and she possibly not be a productive member of society." 

Andrea Adams was there because she was angry about the changes the AHCA could make regarding costs and fees. 

"Whether people realize it or not this is going to raise costs for everyone," Adams said. "I think if more people knew what was going on they would be angry too." 

Hartzler's press secretary, Steve Walsh, sat down with some of the protesters Thursday morning to listen to their complaints and explain the congresswoman's side. 

"The congresswoman believes an individual, by law, should not be forced to purchase anything," Walsh said.

He argued the "loss" of coverage would actually be more of a "choice." 

"You're saying they would lose coverage," Walsh said. "I'm saying they would not lose coverage, they would choose not to purchase coverage."

Walsh also said the AHCA as it is now, would not be the final piece of legislation to reach the president's desk. 

"Whatever passes today, if it passes, whatever passes will go to the Senate," Walsh said. "When it comes back it's going to have a different look than what you see now." 

However, some of the protesters argue Hartzler isn't voting for the bill because it's what's best for her constituents. 

"Right now they're passing laws for lobbyists and instead they should be passing laws for us," Adams said. "They're rushing this bill through because they want to get re-elected, and really they should be taking the time to make sure they're doing it right." 

Which is why other residents said it is important to be protesting in the first place. 

"It's not good to be complacent, we need to make sure our voice is heard," Holt said. "We have to let her know that we're unhappy."