Instead of what was originally intended to be a “mock funeral”-type protest outside of Congressmember Dan Donovan’s Staten Island district office, a number of his constituents descended upon the New Dorp building on Thursday, March 23 to celebrate both the seventh anniversary of Obamacare as well as to thank their local representative – the sole Republican Congressmember in all of New York – for deciding to vote “no” on the now-defunct repeal and replacement plan.
“People felt like it was time to give the Congressmember some positive feedback,” said Teresa Caliari, neighborhood team leader for Staten Island 4 Change, “but the vast majority of us simply said to ourselves, ‘Look, we asked him to vote no, and he has said that he will, so we should thank him.’”
News that Donovan would vote no on the plan – which, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo could lead to the loss of $37 million in funding for at least four hospitals in Donovan’s district – came late Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the scheduled vote, which was then postponed and, as of Friday, March 24, has been abruptly cancelled due to lack of support.
The massive cuts in funding, Cuomo said, underscored the impact that the combination of the Chris Collins/John Faso Amendment and Paul Ryan’s original health care replacement plan would have on New Yorkers. The amendment, the governor stressed, would ban federal reimbursement for state Medicaid funds for local governments outside of New York City, cutting Medicaid for these local governments by $2.3 billion.
Donovan’s stance was made public in wake of contention that he hadn’t even hinted to his constituents which way he’d be voting.
“Obamacare has burdened New York families with unaffordable premiums, rendered some insurance plans unusable because of high deductibles, and caused people to lose their doctors. But recognizing that the status quo is failing isn’t, on its own, a compelling reason to vote ‘yes’ on the current replacement plan,” said Donovan in a statement. “The provision excludes New York City, putting an unfair and disproportionate burden on city residents to cover the state’s exorbitant Medicaid expenses. We need healthcare reform – including promised Medicaid reform in New York where we spend more than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined – but it shouldn’t be done on the backs of already overburdened city residents who will undoubtedly have a tax increase forced on them to pay for this eminently unfair policy.”
The pol, while applauding President Donald Trump’s commitment to “fixing the healthcare system,” also noted the negative impact on seniors of the plan. According to the Census’s 2015 Community Survey, there are 111,152 seniors in the district, which encompasses Staten Island as well as a swath of South Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
The celebration outside of Donovan’s office – which was preceded by a bevy of rallies and protests held outside both the New Dorp and Dyker Heights district offices this winter in support of everything from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to Planned Parenthood as well as to demand an in-person town hall with the politician – included the singing of the Beatles’ rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the ACA as well as a cake that doubled as a “thank you” to Donovan. Constituents also delivered a card and balloons to Donovan.
“We’ve been out there this whole time; we started in December, continued into January, February and March,” Caliari stressed. “The weather’s only getting nicer, so if we made it through the winter, we’ll be even more powerful if we have to be now.”
Rebecca Goldberg of grassroots effort Fight Back Bay Ridge also applauded her representative’s decision.
“We are grateful that Congressman Donovan decided to vote no on AHCA,” she told this paper just days after promoting a Vimeo video calling on the congressmember to back his constituents and vote no on the replacement plan, which she helped create. “In this case, his constituents feel heard. For our part, we were proud to represent both sides of the bridge in a debate that impacts the many neighborhoods he governs.”
“This isn’t about what he did in the past and what he may do in the future,” Caliari concluded. “This is about the American Health Care Act (ACHA), and that he’s said he is going to say no. If he changes his mind tomorrow, we’ll be back out there again. We made that point today.”