Crowd in Downtown L.A. protests Obamacare repeal

Crowds marched through Downtown Los Angeles Thursday afternoon to protest efforts by Republican lawmakers to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

In a rally that occupied a portion of Temple Street outside of the Roybal Federal Building, speakers addressed a crowd of healthcare providers and advocates.

“Healthcare in a Western democracy is a right and not a privilege,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The storm is just beginning. … This is L.A. County, and we ain’t playing.”

Some protestors feared that they would lose access for themselves or loved ones if the new bill, the American Health Care Act, passes.

Ezekial James, 24, volunteers with the L.A. LGBT Center and said most of his friends are transgender men and women who rely on Obamacare to receive hormones.

James said he is “absolutely terrified” of what would happen if Medicaid funding is cut. Medicaid covers preventative medicine for James, including PEP to prevent HIV, and a medication to keep his Omega-3 allergy under control, he said.

Others feared for the people they serve. St. John’s Well Child & Family Center had a large presence at the march, with employees wearing shirts and holding signs that said “Stay Loud!” and “Save our healthcare.”

St. John’s receives federal grants and insurance reimbursements on Medicaid, so this repeal would cut their funding and the number of people they’re able to serve, said St. John’s development director Patrice Wagonhurst.

“We won this round,” said Cindy Navarrete, 54, after Republicans postponed the vote Thursday afternoon. “It gives our people a chance to work harder … hopefully not to lose Obamacare at all.”

Navarrete, a medical assistant who serves homeless people in Downtown L.A. through St. John’s mobile clinics, said part of her job involves preventive care.

“So many people, so many children would be without healthcare” under the Republican plan, Navarrete said. “A lot of them are sick in a whole lot of ways that they’re not aware of.”

That preventive care keeps uninsured patients out of expensive emergency-room situations, said St. John’s recruitment director Martin Chao, who brought his 12-year-old son, Lawrence, to the protest.

Both father and son wore American flags around their necks. Lawrence said he was wearing the flag because “it symbolizes freedom and justice, and … the Affordable Care Act is our right.”

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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