In the successful fight to save the Affordable Care Act, Tyler Batson says it’s his experience and empathy as an LGBT person that helped make a difference.

At risk of having to pay $900 per month for the medication he receives for free as a patient of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s health clinic, Batson wrote about his experience advocating to protect the ACA and the ten lessons he learned from it for The Advocate.

While attending a forum at the Hammer Museum In early February to discuss “a path forward” under Trump, the documentary film director/producer was inspired when Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said “we have a plan.” The plan was to block the ACA in the Senate by persuading key Republican senators to oppose House Speaker Paul Ryan’s replacement bill. So Batson joined nearly 500 other volunteers to call and convince constituents of those senators to not only oppose the bill, but to connect them with the senators’ offices so they could voice their opposition.

Batson credits his experience as an LGBT person to be a big factor in successfully persuading constituents. “Who better to empathize with people who are feeling marginalized, betrayed, neglected, and afraid than the LGBT community?” he asked.

In an effort to persuade Alaska’s senators to oppose the bill, he spoke with an ACA-supporting resident of the state who said “I’m healthy, I don’t need to worry about that.” He asked her if any of her loved ones depended on the ACA, and after a long pause she replied, “I suppose—yes. I didn’t think of that.”

By encouraging constituents to think about how the law’s repeal would hurt people they care about, and by sharing their own stories regarding the impact of a repeal, callers like Batson were making a personal connection with constituents—a personal connection that was changing minds.

“All this woman needed was a little push to be reminded of her own community, and boom, she became one of thousands of people to put pressure on her senator to vote ‘no’ on dismantling healthcare,” said Batson. “Whether or not the ACA affected her or anyone she knew, she was now talking to someone whose life would be in danger if she didn’t do something.”

Through the Center’s month-long mobilization, volunteers transferred 1,332 callers to their senators in Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada to oppose the bill and received commitments from 562 others to call their senators themselves.

“Our big break was with Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada,” said Batson. “During our first phone-banking mobilization, we filled his voicemail box and jammed his phone lines. Days later, he came out publicly to announce that he would be voting ‘no’ on repealing the ACA.”

Reflecting on his advocacy experience, Batson says he felt grateful. “Grateful to be part of a healthcare system and wellness facility that doesn’t see me as a number, a price tag, or even as just another gay man—but as a human being that matters.”

Read Tyler Batson’s full story for The Advocate and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

April 7, 2017