published Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Whitfield County rally backs Affordable Health Care Act

Tom Phipps, a resident of Dalton, Ga., protests the voting history of Congressman Tom Graves (R-9) at the Whitfield County Courthouse Wednesday.
Staff photo by Jeff Lafave
Tom Phipps, a resident of Dalton, Ga., protests the voting history of Congressman Tom Graves (R-9) at the Whitfield County Courthouse Wednesday. Staff photo by Jeff Lafave
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DALTON, Ga. — Hours after the U.S. Senate in Washington played host to a national Affordable Health Care Act funding debate, a smaller discussion took place outside the Whitfield County Courthouse in Dalton.

Volunteers from Organizing for Action -- the activism group kickstarted by Barack Obama's presidential campaigns -- and the Whitfield County Democratic Party took to the rain-soaked sidewalks of North Selvidge Street in support of the national health care reform law.

Rally participants brought signs and echoed their Obamacare enthusiasm in a contained group just outside the courthouse doors. The meeting was brief, lasting around 20 minutes, but necessary, participants said.

"There's a need for this in Dalton because we're a conservative area," said Austin Wade, the event's coordinator. "[The residents of Dalton] have heard about the Affordable Care Act, but they've heard it on television."

Wade, a student at Dalton State College, described the area as a "void of information" when it comes to intrinsic details of national politics.

While Obamacare semantics -- like family cost, which was made public Wednesday -- are still coming to light, Wade assembled colleagues from the county Democratic Party to address specific leaders, such as US. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who has been in the forefront of the effort to delay the law's implementation.

Opponents say the act is unaffordable and a federal intrusion into private medical and insurance decisions.

"If you oppose the president's health care bill, why is your only option to de-fund it?" Wade asked the audience. "Why is your incredibly important office not being used to improve the legislation?"

In a city like Dalton, where the unemployment rate has been above 11 percent since November 2008, health care is an impossible idea for many citizens, some at the rally said.

"I'm over two years away from health care [Medicare], and I can't afford insurance, said Sherry Luffin, 62. "That's why I'm looking forward to the Affordable Care Act -- I'll be able to go to the doctor when I get sick instead of waiting to see if I'll get better or die."

The group rallied around personal testimonies and self-motivation, applauding each other's stories and remarks on Graves and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Occasionally, a car would honk as it drove by the circle.

"I've always said that the only cause worth fighting for is the lost cause," Whitfield County public defender Mike McCarthy said of the Affordable Care Act. "Are there problems with it? Probably not a lot. But this bill is a start. Let's move forward it."

The groups will hold outreach events -- one in English, one in Spanish -- Nov. 11 and 14 to promote a health fair Nov. 19.

Supporters said the best way to promote the legislation is to describe its community benefits.

"There's a lot of people who've never had insurance before that will be included in this plan," Wade said. "Hopefully, people recognize that this is very good for us."

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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