A Facebook Live video a woman made while being escorted out the U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry’s office in Gastonia last week has attracted almost 5 million views.
Julie Anderson of Gastonia went to McHenry’s district office inside the Gaston County Administration Building on May 5 to complain about his vote for “Trumpcare,” or President Donald Trump’s alternative to the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Anderson took issue with the controversial pre-existing condition clause, which she said could hurt her child.
The video begins with a Gaston County Sheriff’s deputy walking back inside the building as Anderson begins to explain that had just escorted her out. Anderson said a woman in McHenry’s office said he was not available because he was in Washington. When Anderson asked for an appointment with him in Washington, she said the woman instead called the sheriff’s deputy on duty in the building.
Assistant Chief Garry Williams with the Sheriff’s Office said he had spoken with the deputy on duty that day, who told him people in offices surrounding McHenry’s called for help after hearing someone in the congressman’s district office yelling and swearing. Anderson denies she raised her voice.
Anderson’s video, which includes her using profanity, describes her 5-year-old daughter’s liver condition and her struggle with finding healthcare before the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, but not fully implemented until 2015.
“Making my child un-insurable for something that’s not her fault is not OK,” she says at one point in the video. “Apparently pro-life does not mean my child that’s alive. It just means babies and uterus’s.”
Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare, insurance agencies were required to offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and could not use those conditions to charge them a higher premium. Under Trumpcare, insurance agencies are still required to cover these conditions, but states can apply for a waiver from the clause which would allow them to consider a person’s health status while writing a policy in the individual market.
Another waiver states could apply for, according to reporting by The Washington Post, would allow insurance companies to forgo a federal essential benefits package with an individually tailored one. These waivers would not affect employer insurance
If someone lives in a state that seeks a waiver, does not have employer coverage and has a lapse in their coverage they could be at risk for a one year increase in coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. States are supposed to have a fund to help offset these increases, though.
That hasn’t stopped the changes from becoming a large controversy, and people like Anderson are worried about what this could mean for their families.
For Anderson, her health insurance going up is something that cannot happen. Her daughter has a complex liver issue that requires constant treatment and medicine. Even one day without her medication could affect her health, she said.
“At this point I do not want to be priced out of the market so my kid can live a healthy life,” Anderson said Wednesday. “Money will be a factor in how healthy she is even though she’s a child and doesn’t have any say in this.”
Healthcare has been an ongoing issue in her family. Anderson said for one week shortly before Obamacare was approved, her child went without medicine and ended up in the hospital. She believes the pre-existing conditions clause has saved her kid’s life.
Anderson said her husband, who is in the military, has volunteered for deployment in order to get better health insurance for their children.
“Last year, my husband deployed specifically for insurance reasons and to lower the deductible,” she said. “I don’t like the fact that in order to afford healthcare for my kid my husband had to risk his life.”
In Anderson’s video she says she was threatened with losing her child to foster care if she did not cooperate, but Williams maintains that was never said to her.
Williams said on Wednesday he had been returning calls from people across the United States concerned about the video. He says Anderson’s description of what occurred in the office is not accurate.
“In this day and age, if someone gets on Facebook and complains about being mistreated by the police everyone wants to jump on board,” he said. “From what I’ve seen on the video and talking with the deputy and witnesses, she was not treated that way.”
One Gastonia mom who saw the video went to McHenry’s office to complain as well, and she followed Anderson’s lead by videotaping the incident. Jennifer Williams went to McHenry’s office on May 8 to complain about McHenry’s vote. Her and Anderson don’t know each other, but have been talking since their videos gained popularity.
Williams’ video has been viewed over 24,000 times and has a few hundred shares.
Williams describes a different experience in McHenry’s office than Anderson. She spoke with a woman there about her suffering from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a group of disorders that affect the skin and joints, as well as a heart problem. Additionally, her daughter has juvenile arthritis in her back. Any time spent not receiving needed medical care could cause her daughter to end up in a wheelchair, Williams said.
“I expected them to tolerate me because I was filming them,” she said.
Both women say no one from McHenry’s office has contacted them since their visits.
McHenry declined to an interview through his office for this story. Butler said McHenry holds town halls each August to talk with constituents.
Since the video, Anderson said she’s received an outpouring of support from people across the U.S., including people asking how they can financially help in her situation. While Anderson said she and her husband are able to afford their medical expenses, she’s suggested people donate to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte to help others.
She’s also hoping the video will spur others in Gaston County to get more politically active.
“America — for all the complaining we do on Facebook about politics, we are not very politically active,” Anderson said. ” I hope that more local people will get out and vote because these are people from our district. He’s doing things that affect people locally, but he’s not connecting with them.”