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Protest held against American Health Care Act in Downtown Chattanooga

Brian Merritt from the Mercy Junction Peace and Justice Center lead the march from Georgia Avenue to Miller Park. Merritt and others carried signs with their pre-existing conditions. (Image: WTVC)

People with chronic conditions are fighting for health coverage. Protesters met in downtown Chattanooga to speak out against the American Health Care Act. They worry people with pre-existing conditions will lose insurance and be denied coverage under the bill. But Republican lawmakers say that's not true - and people with pre-existing conditions will keep coverage.

Asher Larson was one of the protesters who joined the march lead by the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center.

"Transgender people will be dying because of this law," said Asher Larson.

Larson worries the American Health Care Act will come down to life or death for people with pre-existing conditions. Larson is transgender. That's considered a pre-exisiting condition under the bill.

"If people don't have access to health care - they can't be treated for things," said Larson, who fears for transgender people who fall ill.

Larson and others walked through downtown - carrying signs showing pre-existing conditions. They also carried a fake body on a stretcher - symbolizing death.

Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Representative for Tennessee's 3rd district Chuck Fleischmann says - that will still stand.

"We've put money in the bill to make sure that those with preexisting conditions will be covered," said Chuck Fleischmann when NewsChannel 9 interviewed him the day after the bill passed the House.

"I don't believe that," said Larson. "I find that politicians will say whatever they want about health insurance laws."

One reason Larson is skeptical - is the bill's MacArthur Amendment. States could seek waivers and allow insurance companies to charge patients more based on their medical history if coverage lapses for 63 days. More expensive care is something cancer survivor Joan Flores says she can't afford.

"I would just have to go without insurance and hope the cancer doesn't ever come back," said Joan Flores, who also suffers from ulcerative colitis. "Because that would be the thing that would absolutely bankrupt me."

Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee addressed the Senate last week after the vote. He laid out goals for the Senate version of the bill. They include making making sure people with pre-existing conditions have access to insurance - and lowering premiums.

In a statement, Senator Alexander said when writing the bill, the Senate will "...work with urgency because of what's happening in the individual market in Tennessee and across the country, but we'll take time to get it right."

As Senators draft the legislation, people like Larson keep making their voices heard.

"Healthcare is a human right," said Larson. "No one should be denied because of a pre-existing condition."

A spokesperson for Senator Bob Corker told us tonight - Corker doesn't expect the Senate to vote on the house-passed version of the bill.



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