Progressive health care reform advocates plan to demonstrate in defense of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, holding protest events in Chicago and congressional districts across the country, as well as in Washington, D.C.
The day of rallies is the latest attempt by supporters of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, to put a political price on Republicans’ plans to repeal the signature reform. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the GOP’s replacement bill Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the original law’s passage in 2010.
Health Care for America Now, a labor union-backed umbrella group that played a key role in Obamacare’s enactment, is coordinating the day’s actions. It estimates that thousands of activists will turn out to protest the Republican legislation.
The new bill offers tax breaks to wealthy Americans and insurance and drug companies “on the backs of our seniors and families,” HCAN co-director Margarida Jorge said in a statement. “Americans from coast to coast know there’s too much at stake for themselves, their families and millions across the country to allow this bill to pass.”
The rally at 1 p.m. in D.C., which is being organized by the foundation-funded HCAN ally the Center for Popular Democracy and other groups, will feature speeches by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, as well as Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. Attendees will gather at Freedom Plaza to hear the speakers and then march to the Trump International Hotel and the White House, where activists plan to perform acts of civil disobedience. Later in the day, Ellison, who is also co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, plans to hold a press conference on the Republican bill with several CPC members outside the Capitol building.
A mass protest in Chicago’s Federal Plaza will focus on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who was originally slated to visit the city to attend a fundraiser for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R).
And at the district offices of several House Republicans, activists plan to protest the ACA’s repeal by setting up mock emergency rooms. The theatrical gesture aims to show how the drop in insurance coverage from the law’s repeal ― an estimated 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026 under the GOP plan ― would overwhelm emergency rooms as uninsured Americans seek care there.
AARP intends to stage its own colorful protest of the repeal bill Thursday morning at the Capitol South Metro stop outside the House office buildings. The nation’s largest seniors group plans to have people dressed as “Charlie the Squirrel,” a character in its video ads opposing repeal, distribute flyers with AARP’s talking points against the bill. In the ads, Charlie is the comedic companion of a middle-aged American upset about a feature of the Republican legislation that would allow insurers to charge older people five times more than younger people for premiums. Since the bill’s age-based tax credits are not enough to make up the difference, AARP has dubbed the provision the “age tax.”
The planned demonstrations follow a Wednesday protest by House Democrats against Obamacare repeal on Capitol Hill. Former Vice President Joe Biden attended the rally, predicting that the Republican bill is “not gonna pass.”
House Democrats have decided not to throw up last-minute procedural obstacles to delay the bill, according to Politico. The caucus has instead calculated that it is best to let Republicans vote on the legislation and suffer whatever political consequences ensue.