A dozen-and-a-half or so cardboard headstones hovered above the heads of Cumming, south Forsyth and Gwinnett County residents, small bouquets of wildflowers scattered around the atypical cemetery signage.
Though each headstone was unique — one read “R.I.P. AHCA,” another “24 million to lose healthcare” — the group’s message was the same: protest the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — the replacement for Obamacare — and get the attention of U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties.
On Monday, about 15 members from Indivisible GA-7, a group of “Republican, Independent and Democratic residents who live in Congressional District 7 in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties,” held a “die-in” outside Woodall’s Georgia office, which is located in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville.
“We’re laying here to create an immersive experience for people who are going to the courthouse to walk through a graveyard,” said Ron Denham, a Gwinnett resident who largely organized the protest with members throughout the district. “It’s really simple why we’re doing this: one in two people in the country has a preexisting condition, and it’s going to cause [24 million people to lose healthcare].
“Medicaid is being cut massively, maternity benefits are going to be optional instead of central [to] coverage, and we just think it’s a bad combination for the health of babies, for the health of old people, poor people, everybody. It’s going to diminish our country in a lot of different ways.”
On Thursday, House Republicans in Washington D.C. narrowly passed the AHCA with a vote of 217-213, with Woodall and 9th Congressional District Rep. Doug Collins, whose district spans north Forsyth, voting in favor.
The healthcare act, which has drawn opposition from both sides of the aisle, will now move to the Senate, where Republicans have a narrower advantage — 52-48 — over Democrats than in the House.
Ultimately, the bill will likely look drastically different from what was recently passed, though activists said they still plan to stage protests.
“It’s being done to fund a tax cut to the wealthy; that’s the biggest problem,” said Anita Tucker, a Forsyth County Democratic Party activist. “They’re screwing us so they can get their money, and that pisses me off.”
Thirty-two-year-old Gwinnett County resident Eboni Ivery, who passed Monday’s protest on her way from the justice building, said while she takes issue with many aspects of the bill, she ultimately has more questions than answers.
“You take out Obamacare and put in Trumpcare, but what’s involved in it? What’s the purpose of this right now?” she said. “My mother told me years ago, ‘If you want something better, have a better plan.’ But what is so much better about Trump’s plan?
“I have a grandma who’s 85 and going through Alzheimer’s — how is she going to benefit from this? What if someone is disabled? What about our veterans? How do we benefit from this, from our veterans to our senior citizens? And are the generations behind me going to have something to fall back on? That’s my biggest fear.”
Martin Wattenbarger, Woodall’s communications director, said the House Republican has consistently indicated he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, backing up his statements by his vote Thursday.
“There’s not really any new dynamic [with these protesters],” Wattenbarger said. “[Woodall] has been a proponent of repealing and replacing Obamacare, and that’s what this effort in the House was the first step in doing.
“It’s all a process, and we hear from a lot of folks about a lot of things, and we’ve heard from a lot of individuals who may or may not be a part of that [protest.] And they’re adamant about their passion level, and they’re entitled to it. But as far as the bill itself, yes, [Woodall] supported that and voted for it, and he’s going on about business.”