The group T.R.A.G.I.C., or Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices, was started by Canton resident Ashley Cline in January one day after 2014 changes to the Georgia State Health Benefits Plan that left many teachers and other state employees unsatisfied with their insurance coverage choices.
“We’re having people wear green and bring an apple with a Band-Aid on it,” Cline said, “and we’re asking people to visit with their legislators after the rally since session is in.”
The rally is on the steps of the state Capitol at 1 p.m.
The group has amassed more than 13,500 members from across the state since it was created just less than a month ago, and Cline said this rally will bring more awareness to the insurance changes that took effect Jan. 1 this year.
“It’s mostly to bring awareness, and we’re also trying to have it be an advocacy rally, because something was done for 2014, but now we’re concerned about 2015 and beyond,” Cline said. “We’re not going away, we’re watching everything that’s happening, closely, and we will press forward and make sure this won’t happen again.”
After Gov. Nathan Deal’s office was flooded with hundreds of calls from members of T.R.A.G.I.C. in January, Deal said Jan. 27 he backed improvements to the plan that impacts more than 650,000 state employees.
But despite what Deal called improvements to the plan, Cline said the underlying problem was not fixed.
“We had a lot of people that are going to be negatively affected by this. A lot of people will save money, but again, we’re all being stuck with the same thing,” Cline said of the governor’s response. “I’m thrilled we were heard, but I’m worried about our family next year. I don’t want an 11-month Band-Aid, and then for this to happen all over again.”
Cline said the main issue with this year’s State Health Benefit Plan is that it only offers one type of plan from one company, instead of multiple plan options from multiple companies as in past years.
Cline said she expects a few hundred people to show up for the rally Tuesday, but said she hopes to “be pleasantly surprised” with a larger showing.
“A lot of people are bringing their families, too. I RSVP’d for one, but there’s four of us going. We’re all affected; if you’re covering your family, they are obviously impacted as well,” Cline said.
Highlights of the event are listening to guest speakers and meeting with legislators, and Cline encouraged people to make handmade signs for the event, but warned that poles and sticks are not allowed at the Capitol.
The event begins with a meet-up at 1 p.m. and speakers will begin at 1:15 p.m. At 2 p.m., Cline said the group is encouraging members to visit their legislators and express their concerns.
The state Capitol is located at 206 Washington Street Southwest, in Atlanta, and Cline said the group is meeting up at the steps outside the Capitol on the Washington Street side.
More information about the group’s rally at the state Capitol can be found online at its website at www.TragicGa.com.