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Hundreds rally, march downtown to decry American Health Care Act

Hundreds protest in front of Trump Tower Thursday to denounce the American Health Care Act and mark the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans on Thursday postponed a planned vote on the AHCA, the GOP's bill to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Hundreds of protesters rallied and march through downtown Thursday afternoon, denouncing plans — since delayed — to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on the seventh anniversary of the bill becoming law.

Rallying in Federal Plaza before heading north on Dearborn, eventually stopping across the Chicago River from Trump Tower, the crowd cheered as they learned that a vote on the American Health Care Act would not be held Thursday, as was originally planned.

Joining the protesters were several elected officials, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, as well as Democratic gubernatorial candidates State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was scheduled to be in Chicago for a fundraiser, but canceled after it was learned the American Health Care Act didn’t have enough votes to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during a press conference to denounce the proposed American Health Care Act and mark the 7th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Speaking at a press conference outside the Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren, where the fundraiser was set to be held, Preckwinkle said hundreds of thousands of county residents have seen expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“Their intention is to decimate our healthcare system,” Preckwinkle said. “What the Republicans have proposed is a disaster for Cook County. Under the ACA, 480,000 — almost half a million people — in Cook County were able to sign up either for a Medicaid expansion program or a marketplace health plan.”

Biss, who announced his candidacy earlier this week, said more than 1 million state residents depend on the Affordable Care Act for health coverage.

“The state of Illinois can not afford this disastrous Republican healthcare plan that was proposed in Washington this week,” Biss said. “We can’t afford it because the healthcare of 1.3 million Illinois residents is hanging in the balance. That’s immoral.”

Traci Villa joined the rally out of concern for her elderly parents’ access to healthcare.

“I’m pretty disgusted with everything that’s happening with the current administration,” Villa said. “I’m probably most concerned for my elderly parents and how [repealing the Affordable Care Act] is going to affect them.”

Villa said her parents were able to supplement their Medicare with coverage from the ACA, but if that was repealed they would also have to seek assistance through Medicaid.

Thursday’s vote in the U.S. House was postponed after it didn’t garner enough support among Republicans to overcome Democratic opposition.

President Donald Trump made repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act — nicknamed “Obamacare” — a centerpiece of his campaign.

The Associated Press reported late Thursday evening that House Republicans now plan to vote on the American Health Care Act on Friday.

Hundreds marched through the streets of Chicago Thursday to protest the American Health Care Act and mark the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times