By Ilana Novick / AlterNet

Activists demonstrate outside the Washington office of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Wednesday. (CPD Action / Twitter)

Hundreds of activists from around the country descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday to protest the GOP’s latest assault on health care and the Affordable Care Act. As Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell spent hours twisting senators’ arms over lunch and secret meetings trying to whip up votes, nearly 300 Americans, including doctors, nurses, home health aides, and people with chronic conditions, occupied Republican senators’ officers, demanding that their elected officials kill the Better Care Reconciliation Act and support a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system.

The actions were led by a coalition of organizations including the Center for Popular Democracy, Housing Works, GMHC, National Nurses United, Rise and Resist, Positive Women’s Network USA, and Health Care for America Now. Participants stressed that the health care vote is a life-or-death decision.

“I’ve been living with HIV for 26 years and I am alive because of my medication,” said Barb Cardell of Boulder, Colorado, who was arrested on July 10, and according to a statement from organizers, planned to risk arrest again Wednesday. “Without my medications, I would die, and without my health insurance, I can’t afford my meds, which cost $10,000 per month. I remember the early days of HIV when people got sick and just died. I have tried to speak with Senator [Cory] Gardner about this many times and wasn’t able to reach him in Colorado, so I’ve come back today to try to find him myself.”

As Jennifer Flynn, director of health care justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement, “By repealing the ACA, Republican senators are doing the bidding of their billionaire donors, not the lives of the people who they represent. Republicans are so obsessed with repealing the ACA that they’re willing to leave millions without healthcare and let people suffer preventable deaths.”

Charles King, the founder and CEO of Housing Works, emphasized that as long as the Senate keeps reviving this bill, activists will be showing up at their offices to fight it.

“We’ve had some victories these past days in pushing back the various nefarious versions of the Senate bill and repeal-only attempts. We’re here in D.C. because we know the fight is not yet over,” he said, adding, “We are here to reiterate to every Republican senator that they cannot repeal ACA and gut Medicaid. They need to shore up failing markets and put money into lowering premiums for middle-class, working people. They need to encourage all states to expand Medicaid, and they should extend Medicare to cover everyone 55 years old and over. Then we can fight for the single-payer health care system all Americans deserve.”

As of early Wednesday evening, nearly 100 people participating in the protests were arrested. See pictures and video from the protest below.

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