Pittsfield will be the site of one of many planned nationwide rallies to support health care access this Saturday, Feb. 25.
The rally and standout at Park Square from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. was organized in response to threats to American healthcare from President Donald Trump's administration and a Republican-dominated Congress, according to a press release from event organizer Casey Pease, 1st congressional district director of the Young Democrats of Massachusetts and chairman of the Worthington Democratic Town Committee. Demonstrators will gather in support of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Among the legislators supporting the rally include state Rep. Paul Mark of the 2nd Berkshire District, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of the 3rd Berkshire District, state Sen. Adam Hinds of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District. Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer has also signed on as a supporter of the rally.
Even in a state like Massachusetts, where much of the legislature supports the Affordable Care Act or similar programs, it's important for elected officials to see know they have their constituents' support, said Mark of the 2nd Berkshire District.
"A rally like this gives [legislators] momentum they need to stand and fight," he said.
"Demonstrations in support of these programs are critical to their survival," Pease said in the release. "Republicans in Congress are now in the process of planning what would be devastating to working men and women across our country. If they were to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it would cut health care for the poor, and privatize it for the aging."
Trump signed an executive order calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act — one of former President Barack Obama's best-known policies — on his first day in office, keeping with one his campaign promises.
The order intends to afford states flexibility and control to create a more free and open health care market, according to a copy of the Jan. 20 order, "Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal."
"We've been terrifically worried about health care coverage as one of the key aspects of freedom from want," said Sherwood Guernsey, a coordinator for the Four Freedoms Coalition and a lawyer in Pittsfield. "[The rally is] a very visible way where people can come together."
Health care is an important issue for Berkshire County, which went from having many residents with health insurance covered by employers like General Electric to work in other sectors that usually doesn't offer health insurance, he said.
"Without health care, people are really in danger ... it's worth standing out for one hour Saturday," he said.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act could have significant impacts even in Massachusetts, which had its own universal health insurance plan, known as "Romneycare," prior to the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, going back to Romneycare might not be an affordable option, as the Romney plan relied heavily on federal aid, and congressional Republicans have been seeking to reduce health care spending, according to a Jan. 5 Boston Globe article.
Mass Health — the state's Medicaid program — could also be in jeopardy. Trump's plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would give each state a fixed amount of money in the form of a block grant to provide health insurance to low-income residents through Medicaid, introducing the possibility of a lack of funding for potential expense increases, according to a Jan. 22 New York Times article.
The event is cosponsored by the Four Freedoms Coalition, Western Massachusetts Young Democrats, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and the Worthington Democratic Town Committee, among others.
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.