Rallying the troops: Sanders outlines plan to combat Planned Parenthood cuts

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BRATTLEBORO — Bernie Sanders flew to Montana on Friday to help rally the American people against the American Health Care Act.

The AHCA was passed in the House on May 4. Twenty Republicans and all 193 Democrats in the House voted against it. The Senate, which has 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats has yet to see the bill.

"The Republicans are working on it behind closed doors," Sanders said. "There is no health care plan currently in the Senate."

The Republicans have been changing the bill passed by the House to make it more likely to be passed in the Senate.

"The bill passed in the House is an absolute disaster for the people of Vermont and the people of America," Sanders said. He believes that any version of the bill presented to the Senate will also be highly problematic. Sanders said Democrats in Washington are already opposed to the bill and many Republicans are as well. The bill passed in the House, according to Sanders, would leave 24 million people who are currently on Medicaid without insurance and would defund Planned Parenthood.

Nearly three million women are currently relying on Planned Parenthood for healthcare, according to Sanders. In Vermont, Lucy Leriche, vice president of Public Policy Vermont for Planned Parenthood Northern New England, told the Reformer that under the new legislation, Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to serve Medicaid patients. Medicaid paitents make up 69 percent of Planned Parenthood's national patient base, according to Leriche. They make up 34 percent of the patients in New England and 47 percent in Vermont. In Brattleboro, 65 percent of the patients Planned Parenthood serves have an income of $17,820 or less.

"Those 2.5 million women in this country have the right to continue birth control and cervical exams," Sanders said.

The Brattleboro Planned Parenthood does not provide abortion services, but in 2016 it did serve 1,193 patients and offered its lower income patients $99,103 worth of services. Brattleboro Planned Parenthood isn't just geared to women's reproductive health. The clinic also offers treatment for jock itch, tests for testicular cancer, screenings for high cholesterol and diabetes, smoking cessation therapy, referrals for intimate partner violence, counseling for obesity and mental health services, and hormone therapy.

Sanders said the bill would not only affect low income people but the elderly, many of whom live in nursing homes, as well. Perhaps most despicable to Sanders, is the $3 million in tax cuts the bill gives to corporations.

"It's one of the worst pieces of legislation ever in American history," Sanders said.

Sanders refused to acknowledge a future where the AHCA passed. Many Americans are already against it, he said. His goal is to reach out to those Americans and encourage them to call their legislators.

"No way, are we going to let this bill pass," he said. "Our job is to improve Obamacare not destroy it."

Sanders would like to see lower premiums and deductibles added to an Obamacare-like healthcare system.

"It's a mistake to talk about what-if," Sanders said when asked if the Democrats had a back up plan for if the bill did pass. "It's our job to create healthcare for all. That's what we're going to focus on right now."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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