Thousands of people showed up in freezing temperatures at a community college in Michigan on Sunday to support the federal health care law, one of several rallies Democrats are staging around the country to stoke resistance to Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's signature achievement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders was expected to speak at Macomb Community College in the Detroit suburb of Warren, where people lined up four abreast for the length of 3 or 4 football fiends waiting to get in to the rally. Labor unions were a strong presence at the rally with several signs for the UAW, which represents auto workers. People carried signs including "Save our Health Care," and "Michigan Stands."
President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and majority Republicans in Congress this week began the process of repealing it using a budget maneuver that only requires a bare majority in the Senate to pass.
"They (Republicans) are trying to sink health care reform and we're not going to let them do that," Democratic Rep. Sander Levin told the crowd as they waited for Sanders to arrive.
Sanders has been one of the strongest advocates for the health care law, which has delivered health coverage to about 20 million people but is saddled with problems such as rapidly rising premiums and large co-payments.
Sanders made several visits to the state last year during the Michigan primary and on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He defeated her in the primary and attracted huge crowds during his stops, including one in Warren and another in nearby Ypsilanti, Michigan. But in a major surprise, Michigan voted narrowly for Trump on Nov. 8, the first time a Republican has carried the state since 1988.
The health law has provided health care 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.
Republicans want to end the fines that enforce the requirement that many individuals buy coverage and that larger companies provide it to workers — mandates that experts say were needed to stabilize insurers' rates. They'd like to expand health savings accounts, erase the taxes Obama's law imposed on higher-income people and the health care industry, eliminate the subsidies that help people buy policies and pare back its Medicaid expansion for the poor.
But they face internal disagreements over policy, such as how to pay for any replacement and how to protect consumers and insurers during what could be a two- or three-year phase-out of the existing health program.