Fairbanks health care rally draws diverse crowd

North Pole city council member Santa Claus at a health care rally outside Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office Thursday evening. (Dan Bross / KUAC)

Alaskans concerned about the effects of a US Senate health care bill have been contacting Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and staging events at their local offices. One such Fairbanks rally took place outside Senator Murkowski’s Fairbanks office on Thursday evening.

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The event was organized by “Our Revolution Fairbanks” one of numerous local groups formed across the country after Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign. The group’s Olivia Garret helped put together the rally to call on Senator Murkowski to vote against the Republican crafted Better Care Reconciliation Act.

”About 67,000 Alaskans, I believe, stand to lose coverage if the BCRA passes,” Garret said. “And it is a life or death issue. It sounds like a lot of kyperbole, but there are folks who will die: a lot of Medicaid recipients, a lot people with disabilities, debilitating mental illnesses.”

Among those in attendance, long time Fairbanks residents Terry Boren and Jim Ruppert, were clear about what they want included in national health care.

”The Medicaid expansion and supporting Planned Parenthood for the state of Alaska,” Boren said.

“We need to have consistent coverage for everybody,” Ruppert said.

Among other attending the rally was Santa Claus.

“I’m particularly concerned about children,” Claus said.

The North Pole City council member, who’s legal name is Santa Claus, looks the part with a big white beard and jolly disposition, but is serious when it comes to health care, saying he believes in a single payer system

”A lot of children are on Medicare and and Medicaid, particularly here in Alaska,” Claus said. “So I would like to see Medicare for all.”

Earlier on Thursday, a sit in was held at Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan’s Fairbanks office, where a group including many with disabilities, also expressed concerns about effects of the Senate Republican health care bill.

There’s another event scheduled in Anchorage tomorrow. The details of the Senate’s bill will be discussed during Talk of Alaska next Tuesday at 10 am.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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