Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Friday marked two years since President Barack Obama signed the health care reform law, and during this election year, the controversy surrounding it is far from over.
Supporters say the law expands coverage to millions of Americans and protects patients with pre-existing health problems. But opponents say it goes too far, forcing everybody to buy insurance while stepping on religious freedoms.
Some of those criticisms were raised in St. Paul Friday afternoon, when Pro-life Ministries organized a rally on the plaza of the Warren E. Federal Building. Hundreds of people were bussed in for the rally, and parents and children held signs that reading: “Stop the Mandate” and “Stand Up for Religious Freedom”.
The rally was one of 140 held in cities across the U.S.
The protesters are unhappy specifically with the part of the act that mandates hospitals and universities to offer free contraception, despite religious beliefs.
Organizer Brian Gibson said Obama’s healthcare law is a direct attack on the First Amendment.
“It is requiring people of faith do something that is in direct contradiction to their deeply held beliefs,” he said.
On the other side of the debate, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also in Minnesota on Friday.
Sebelius, along with Gov. Mark Dayton, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, and Sen. Al Franken, met with nearly a dozen Minnesota women who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.
Several of the women have children with chronic illnesses. They say health care reform saved their families financially, and one woman said it saved her daughter’s life.
Abby Schanfield is a student at the University of Minnesota who has a life-long medical condition called Toxoplasmosis. It’s affected her sight, and causes water to get on the brain. At one point, she was worried she’d have no insurance.
“That uncertainty…to turn a certain age and not be covered: it’s very scary,” Schanfield said.
She said she’s also relieved that when she turns 26, she’ll be able to get coverage because the act requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. She says without the changes, it would be a great challenge.
Next week the Supreme Court plans to hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the health care law.
A Washington Post poll found that 67 percent of Americans think the court should strike it down or at least repeal the part that requires citizens to buy insurance.
All of the Republican presidential candidates have promised to do away with the health care law.