PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
Three people were arrested outside U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's Metairie office during a sit-in urging Cassidy to vote against the Senate's health bill.
As part of a national demonstration urging Senators to vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, three people were arrested July 6 while inside the Causeway Boulevard building that houses U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's Metairie office.
Roughly 20 demonstrators demanding Cassidy vote against the Better Care Reconciliation Act joined a nationwide "sit-in" at Senate offices across the U.S., a multi-pronged effort coordinated by Democratic Socialists of America chapters as well as Democracy Spring, Our Revolution, #AllOfUs, Progressive Democrats of America, Ultraviolet, The People's Consortium, ResistHere.org and The Working Families Party. The national Sit-In to #StopTrumpcare
also calls for single-payer health care through a Medicare For All platform.
The organizations also called for Senators to protect Medicaid, which likely faces a chopping block if the bill passes. More than 436,000 people in Louisiana have qualified for Medicaid coverage following the state's 2016 expansion of the health program.
One year after Gov. John Bel Edwards approved Medicaid’s expansion in Louisiana, Edwards and state health officials also are urging the Senate to keep the program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Medicaid’s expansion in the state is “essential to protecting the health and wellbeing of Louisiana’s working families.” In a letter last month to Cassidy and U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, Edwards said he has "very serious concerns" about the bill, which Edwards says "effectively eliminates" the state's Medicaid expansion program, "resulting in hundreds of thousands of Louisianans losing lifesaving access to primary and diagnostic care."
More than 207,000 children in Louisiana have severe disabilities or special health needs, and nearly 60 percent rely wholly or partially on Medicaid to supplement their care. According to a recent Democratic staff report
from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the U.S. Senate’s plan to gradually slash Medicaid funding will have “particularly harmful and lasting effects” on those children in Louisiana, “despite the fact that these children have done absolutely nothing to warrant such treatment.”
A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Senate bill would increase the number of uninsured people in the U.S. by 22 million while reducing the federal deficit by $321 billion from 2017-2026 — mostly by cutting spending on Medicaid, which would decline in 2026 by 26 percent compared to projections based on current law. Medicaid would lose more than $770 billion by 2026.
After demonstrators arrived in the building's lobby, property managers and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office (JPSO) officers warned they would be arrested if they remained on the property.
About 30 minutes later, JPSO officers arrested three people — Mark D'Arensbourg, Laura Welter, and Haley Saucier.
JPSO deputies booked them for criminal trespassing for "remaining in place after being forbidden," a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
Moments before JPSO prepared to put her in plastic hand ties, Saucier explained she suffers from a polysaccharide immune deficiency, which she calls an "extremely rare, extremely complicated and extremely expensive" condition previously covered through her father's insurance under ACA rules expanding coverage to children up to age 26. She now is covered through Medicaid under Aetna, which Saucier says will likely drop her from coverage because of costly treatment. Saucier says treatment without insurance tops $40,000 a month.
"I don't want to get arrested — I want to be able to live with dignity," she said. "I'm not doing this for fun ... I wouldn't be putting myself in this position if it wasn't life or death ... I'm acting out of desperation and trying to stay alive."