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Illinois Democrats denounce GOP plan to repeal Obamacare

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at the headquarters of SEIU Healthcare Illinois on Sunday. He told the crowd that 1.2 million people will lose their health insurance in Illinois if President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is repealed. "That's roughly 10 percent of our state's population," Durbin said. Behind him are U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (left), Jan Schakowsky (third from left), and Raja Krishnamoorthi. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at the headquarters of SEIU Healthcare Illinois on Sunday. He told the crowd that 1.2 million people will lose their health insurance in Illinois if President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is repealed.
"That's roughly 10 percent of our state's population," Durbin said. Behind him are U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (left), Jan Schakowsky (third from left), and Raja Krishnamoorthi. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Heavy hitters from the state’s Democratic Party gathered Sunday on the South Side to denounce Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare — adding to a rallying cry that echoed across the country on Sunday.

“Welcome to the resistance!” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., shouted to hundreds who had gathered at the headquarters of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, 2229 S. Halsted. Hundreds more endured frigid weather to watch the rally on a video screen set up in a nearby parking lot.

“I want to thank all the people who are standing out in the cold, and I want to say that it will be an even colder day in hell if we allow billionaires like Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump to take away our health care,” Schakowsky told an exuberant crowd.

She was joined on stage by Sen. Dick Durbin, and U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Mike Quigley, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Durbin told the crowd that 1.2 million people will lose their health insurance in Illinois if President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is repealed.

“That’s roughly 10 percent of our state’s population,” Durbin said.

Dozens of rallies were staged across the country on Sunday, including one in Michigan featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.

Hundreds of people | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Hundreds of people endured frigid weather to watch the rally on a video screen set up in a nearby parking lot. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to overturn and replace Obamacare, and majority Republicans in Congress this week began the process of repealing it, using a budget maneuver that requires a bare majority in the Senate.

“This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. It is time we got our national priorities right,” Sanders told the Michigan rally.

The law has delivered health coverage to about 20 million people, but it’s saddled with problems such as rapidly rising premiums and large co-payments.

Britt Waligorski, 31, a health care administrator for a dental practice, said she didn’t get health insurance through work but has been covered through the health law for three years. While the premiums have gone up, she said she is concerned that services for women will be taken away if it is repealed.

“It’s done a lot for women for their annual checkups, for mammograms — women’s health in general. If this gets repealed, we’re going to go back to the old days when that’s not covered,” she said.

The health law has provided subsidies and Medicaid coverage for millions who don’t get insurance at work. It has required insurers to cover certain services such as family planning and people who are already ill, and has placed limits on the amount that the sick and elderly can be billed for health care.

Sanders, a strong supporter of the law, made several visits to the state last year during the Michigan primary and defeated Hillary Clinton there. But in a major surprise, Michigan narrowly voted for Trump on Nov. 8, the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1988.

Rallies in some other cities in support of the health law also were well attended. Police estimated about 600 people showed up in Portland, Maine. Hundreds also attended events in Newark, New Jersey, Johnston, Rhode Island, Richmond, Virginia and Boston.

Republicans want to end the fines that enforce the requirement that many individuals buy coverage and that larger companies provide it to workers.

But they face internal disagreements on how to pay for any replacement and how to protect consumers and insurers during a long phase-in of an alternative.

Mark Heller, 45, a civil rights, immigration and labor attorney who drove to the Michigan event from Toledo, Ohio, said that stopping Republicans from repealing the law may take more than attending rallies.

“I think that it’s going to take civil disobedience to turn this around because they have the votes in both the Senate and the House, and the president,” he said.


Contributing:
Associated Press