Vigil held in Columbus Circle to protest health care bill

As Republicans in the Senate work to pass a health care bill behind closed doors, without any of the committee hearings or floor debates that characterize the legislative process, New Yorkers are making sure their angry voices are heard on the matter.

Hundreds of people gathered in Columbus Circle on Wednesday evening for the start of a 24-hour vigil to plead with representatives in Washington, D.C., to halt the American Health Care Act. The version passed by the House would dismantle major parts of the Affordable Care Act and leave 23 million more Americans without insurance over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Representatives from numerous organizations across the city united to shine a light on what they see as a major injustice for the millions who would suffer without health care.

“We are fighting like crazy to keep what we have, but let’s not lose sight of our vision,” said Martha Livingston, vice chairwoman of the New York metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. “That is, you get to have health care because you are a human being in the United States of America, the richest country in the world.”

As the evening went on, people stepped up to the microphone to talk about how having — or not having — health care coverage has impacted their lives.

Tim Murphy, a 47-year-old activist from Brooklyn, was diagnosed with HIV and said he relies on Obamacare, like so many others with potentially fatal conditions.

“New York State has always more or less provided health care for its neediest and its most vulnerable,” Murphy said. “But there are other states. This is also about poor people in the South who will really be screwed if this rug gets pulled out from under them.”

A handful of activists planned to stay overnight as a show of solidarity, and similar actions are taking place across the country this week.