Trump to rally in Ohio as residents worry about health care

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Ohio on Tuesday as the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to open debate on legislation to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Ohioans have mixed feelings about Republicans’ efforts.

Some who rely on government assistance say they’re having trouble sleeping at night because they’re worried about their medical expenses. Others are hopeful the Republican plan will make things more affordable for them.

Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally in Youngstown Tuesday night, has been urging Republicans to support an effort to repeal and replace Obama’s statute.

Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman could be a key swing vote on the GOP legislation and is facing immense pressure from both sides.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence attended the Ohio Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner in Columbus and urged GOP senators to get rid of Obama’s health care policies. Then on Monday, Republican Gov. John Kasich, said the Senate should not try to “force a one-sided deal that the American people are clearly against.”

Here’s a look at some residents’ concerns.

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FIGHTING FROM A WHEELCHAIR

Darrell Price, 50, was born with cerebral palsy and had his left hip replaced in 2009. He lives in subsidized housing in Cleveland, gets around with a power wheelchair and relies on a Medicaid-funded assistant to wash him, dress him and cook his meals, six hours a day, six days a week.

“If those Medicaid cuts go through, I’m scared to death,” said Price, who voted for Hillary Clinton in November. “If I don’t have enough funding to go into a nursing home, what happens then? Do I go on the street?”

Price has been jumping on activist conference calls, emailing Portman’s office every week and drove two hours to Columbus on Saturday to protest when Pence came to visit.

“Every week, they’re saying ‘oh, we’re going to have a vote in a week,’ and then it fails,” Price said. “There’s no certainty at all. I’ll go down fighting if that’s what I have to do.”

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STUCK IN YOUNGSTOWN, HOPEFUL FOR TRUMP

Judy Martin, 72, of McDonald, Ohio, “tosses and turns” in bed at night, wracked with leg pain and worried about her medical bills.

Martin, a factory worker for 51 years, said she burned through her $20,000 in life savings on medical expenses a year after her retirement. She now relies on a monthly $1,500 social security check and Medicare subsidies, but still has to pay roughly $400 a month for medication and supplemental insurance.

“It feels like we’re getting punished as we’re getting older,” Martin said. “I earned my time out there. Here we are, stuck.”

Martin, who voted for Trump, “has faith” that Trump will make things more affordable for her, and is excited to hear what Trump has to say about health care when he comes to Youngstown, a 15 minute drive from her home. Though she won’t be there in person, she plans to watch his speech online and hear about it from her son who plans to attend.

“I believe that Trump can do it, and that he will take care of the little people,” Martin said.

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CONSIDERING MOVING OUT OF STATE

Jeni and Kevin Potter’s 13-year-old daughter, Erin, has battled leukemia three times and received bone marrow transplants twice. Over the years, their medical bills ran into the millions, mostly paid for by company insurance after the Affordable Care Act removed lifetime caps on insurance payouts.

So when the Potters heard that Congress was trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they looked at each other and thought, “What are we going to do?”

“You’ve got to think out of the box,” said Jeni Potter, who voted for Clinton. “Where can we go to get her health care?”

The Potters, who live east of Cleveland, jumped online and scouted houses in Canada. Jeni Potter emailed every single representative in the Massachusetts House, seeing if they would be covered by that state’s near-universal health system.

They’ve relaxed a little in the past month as Republican plans have stalled, but worries still loom large in the back of their minds.

“What does this mean for her?” Jeni Potter asked. “I have no idea. That unknown is terrifying.”

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