Illinois Democrats rally in Chicago to fight for Affordable Care Act


David Fishman/Daily Senior Staffer

An attendee holds up a sign at a rally Sunday at SEIU’s headquarters in Chicago. The rally was one of dozens held across the country, organized or inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to defend against the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

David Fishman, Assistant City Editor

CHICAGO — A slew of high-profile Democrats gathered Sunday in downtown Chicago as part of a nationwide defense of the Affordable Care Act — a centerpiece of the Obama administration that has become a target for the newly Republican-controlled Washington.

“We are in a struggle for the soul of our country,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at the rally. “Are we going to pursue policies at the federal level that help only the privileged, white, Christian, straight, native-born, insured? … We’ve got to be part of the resistance.”

Preckwinkle was joined Sunday by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and other local Democrats at SEIU Healthcare — a major healthcare union. The rally, which drew about 1,000 people, was one of dozens across the country either organized or inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Speaking to an exuberant crowd, Durbin said about 10 percent of Illinoisans could lose their health insurance if Congress repeals the current law. In addition, the state could lose billions of dollars in federal funding.

“If you have ever had a moment in your life when you were a father of a sick daughter and had no health insurance, you’ll remember it as long as you live,” Durbin said. “I was that father. God forbid anyone else would have to live through this wondering if your daughter was going to get the medical care she absolutely needed.”

The Affordable Care Act has been a long-time target of Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump, who repeatedly bashed what he called the “disaster” plan and promised to repeal it during his first weeks in office. Congress began that process last week, passing a budget that sets up the framework for erasing one of President Barack Obama’s central legacies.

But that promise has proven challenging as Republicans scramble to devise a suitable replacement.

“Republicans are like the dog that chased the bus,” Schakowsky said at the event. “And now they caught the bus and they are scaring themselves silly. This is a room full of warriors for this moment and we are fighting for our lives.”

Other politicians joined Schakowsky and Durbin in vowing to fight efforts to repeal the current healthcare law without a replacement. In recent weeks, Republicans have repeatedly assured a quick repeal-and-replace of the act, promising to keep the good and reform the bad.

On Sunday, speaking to the Washington Post, Trump sought to further assuage concerns by promising “insurance for everyone” with “lower numbers, much lower deductibles,” but he didn’t elaborate on his plan.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump told the Post. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

But Beatrice Lumpkin, a 98-year-old labor activist who attended the event, said she did not trust the new administration to adequately replace the current healthcare law.

“This is the first chance we have to let Congress and the president know that they cannot roll back or take away our medical care,” she said. “We fought for that … and gradually our country has moved forward. We’re not going back.”

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