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9th District residents protest about affordable care, other issues
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Protesters take photos Monday of a "Trump's Wall of Shame" display following their gathering outside U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' office on Washington Street in Gainesville.

For Dahlonega resident Marisa Pyle and her family, the Affordable Care Act has been a lifesaver.

This past year, she was diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders, and “the medication and care for them and my ability to continue college is dependent on our insurance through the ACA,” she said.

And that’s what drove her to speak out Monday morning at a protest in front of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ Gainesville office, where about 100 sign-carrying, chanting protesters called for, among other things, Congress preserving the Affordable Care Act.

“Seeing all these news stories coming out of Washington about repealing it and they don’t have a replacement that they have shown us yet — they are playing with our lives,” Pyle said into a megaphone. “Without any kind of plan, it puts so many people in the U.S., who depend on this care, in fear, and it has to stop.”

Much of the protest was focused on national issues and President Donald Trump in particular, with a pyramid-shaped array of boxes, “Trump’s Wall of Shame,” on display.

But some of it was directed at Collins, the 9th District’s Republican lawmaker.

“I just want to tell Congressman Collins, you can run, but you can’t hide,” a speaker said into the megaphone at the rally in front of the Hosch Building on Washington Street. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to face your constituents.”

Pyle, along with two other area residents, met with Collins for about 45 minutes about their concerns over the health care reform law, often referred to as Obamacare.

“We feel like we need to not repeal ACA,” said Dawson County resident Bette Holland, who was part of the meeting.

Collins “was very receptive to everything we talked about,” she said. “We still have differences, obviously, about what we think needs to be done. But there are a few things we agree on, such as keeping the pre-existing conditions clause and keeping children under 26 on their parents’ (insurance).”

Collins, speaking from his office after the protest, agreed the meeting with the residents was civil, but “we have different ways at looking at this issue.”

He said ACA, which was President Barack Obama’s centerpiece legislation, “has destroyed the individual health care market, that it has made costs unattainable and coverage out of reach for those who even want to have it through the (insurance) exchanges.

“It’s in a death spiral. Obamacare cannot sustain itself. … (ACA supporters) are wanting to defend a system that is broken.”

Collins said “there’s a better way” to cover people with pre-existing conditions, keep those under 26 on parents’ insurance and end the government’s requirement that people must have insurance or face tax penalties.

“You do that by reinventing the market and not by limiting or mandating control,” he said.

He also said that with every story such as the one told by Pyle, he has “multiple stories” of others who have struggled because of ACA.

“We can look at our (personal) health care plan and (see how it has) digressed and (been) made more costly since the implementation of ACA,” Collins said.

Chase Reed, chairman of the Hall County Young Republicans, supported Collins’ approach in a statement emailed to The Times

“I think I speak for all Republicans, not only in Hall County but throughout the 9th District, when I say ‘thank you’ to Congressman Collins for fighting for our North Georgia conservative values,” Reed said. “We all can agree that we need health care reform in this country; however, the ACA is not the answer. We need a free-market system that is fueled by common-sense ideas.”

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