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Protesters’ gift to U.S. House speaker: Cat food and dog nibbles

A group of protesters gather in Chicago Tuesday before heading to Wisconsin, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's home state, to protest the GOP health care plan. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

A group of about 20 Chicago seniors trudged out into the snow Tuesday morning, bound for Wisconsin and bringing lunch for U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan: some cans of cat food and a bag of dry dog nibbles.

The group didn’t actually expect to encounter Ryan in his Racine, Wis., office, and the meal was an angry gesture of their displeasure with his proposed health care legislation.

“We’re going to serve him a lunch of dog and cat food because that’s the only thing people [will be able] to afford if their health care is cut,” said the group’s organizer, Anna Marin, a spokeswoman for the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, an activist seniors group. “People will have to make choices between food, housing and medicine.”

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the GOP legislation could increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million in 2018, and by 24 million over a decade. The legislation — which doesn’t have universal Republican support — would use tax credits to help consumers buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid  and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and scrap a number of  taxes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan uses charts and graphs to make his case for the GOP’s long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act during a news conference in Washington last week. A Congressional Budget Office analysis concluded that fewer Americans will have health coverage under the proposal, despite President Donald Trump’s promise of “insurance for everybody.” | J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

But Ryan, speaking on Fox News Channel Monday, said the CBO report “actually exceeded my expectations,” adding that the millions losing coverage was to be expected because his overhaul of Obama’s law removes the penalty aimed at coercing people into buying coverage.

The Chicago seniors group, heading to Wisconsin on a bus, say “Ryancare” is a sham.

“We understand this bill has nothing to do with health care,” Marin said. “The Paul Ryan ACA repeal bill is about redistributing wealth from regular folks, low- and middle-income folks, seniors … up to the very wealthy, and that’s at the expense of people losing their health care.”

One of those regular folks is Reggie Griffin, 73, who lives in Edgewater. Griffin, part of the group heading to Racine, said the planned cuts are “immoral.”

“I value my independence. I want to live a life of dignity,” Griffin said. “There are members of Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, who think I don’t deserve to live with dignity. That’s ain’t right. Health care is dignity.”

Contributing: Associated Press