Blumenthal, Murphy Continue Health Care Campaign During Recess

By:  Russell Blair
Hartford Courant

A 1-year-old girl from Hebron born with a heart defect who has racked up more than $1 million in hospital bills.

A Milford man who was diagnosed with cancer at age 21 and was fearful his post-college job search would be based on prospective employers' insurance plans rather than earning potential or interest. And a Litchfield man with a rare lung disease who was hospitalized for 48 days and relied on Medicaid to cover the bills.

Sen. Chris Murphy shared those stories and others Thursday in a daylong series of tweets, trying to drum up opposition to a Senate vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that is expected to happen later this month. Similar legislation was approved by a narrow margin in the House in May.

Congress is in recess for the July 4 holiday, but Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal have both been ratcheting up the pressure on their Republican colleagues. Blumenthal visited a health center in Willimantic on Wednesday and on Thursday held his fourth "emergency field hearing" on the Senate bill, inviting his constituents to testify on the health care legislation.

Blumenthal and Murphy have been appealing for personal stories that they can bring back to Washington and share – on the Senate floor and at press conferences and rallies – to try to bring to light the human impact of repealing Obamacare.

"Senate Republicans need to hear the real life stories about what this disaster of a bill would do to families," Murphy said. "I'm collecting their stories to make sure their voices get heard."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pressed hard for a vote before the holiday break. But he couldn't convince enough members of his caucus to support the bill as it was drafted and the vote was delayed. Now it appears a vote won't happen next week either.

Blumenthal marched in two parades this week — the Boom Box Parade in Willimantic and the Columbia 4th of July Parade. At those and other events the conversation almost always turned to health care.

"It's really constant," Blumenthal said. "I have never seen an issue with this much traction."

On Thursday, as he visited an Old Saybrook fish market for an unrelated event, a number of customers came up to him "asking me to fight this thing ... to continue to battle it," Blumenthal said.

"There's a very immediate and emotional connection," he said.

Blumenthal will visit a health center in Ansonia and a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hartford on Friday to hear from doctors and patients about the impact of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Murphy has planned a telephone town hall with constituents.

On Monday morning, before they return to Washington, the senators are planning an event to highlight the impact the cuts in Medicaid contained within the Republican health care bill would have on treatment for opioid addiction.