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Health & Spirit

Democrats and their allies won't let Obamacare go down without a fight

Noam N. Levey and Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Energized by Republican moves to roll back the Affordable Care Act, leading patient advocates, consumer groups, labor unions and Democratic officials are mobilizing a nationwide campaign to defend it and protect millions of Americans who depend on the law and other government health programs.

The campaign, which is quickly ramping up ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration next week, aims to reshape the debate over the law after years in which the public conversation has been dominated by its critics.

But Obamacare supporters believe that as Republicans push to gut the 6-year-old law, Americans, including many who voted for Trump, will come to appreciate its protections and fight to keep them.

"This is about one of the most important things in every person's life: the basics of your health," outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a speech Monday.

"This is real, and it affects everyone's lives. ... That is what's different, when the conversation shifts from the rhetoric to reality."

Already, there are signs of this new dynamic, as a growing number of Republicans voice concerns about rushing to repeal Obamacare without first outlining a replacement, something the GOP has yet to do.

Polls show thin support for the Republican strategy to repeal now but delay a replacement. No major organizations representing patients, physicians, hospitals or others in the nation's health care system back the GOP approach.

And Trump enters office with historically low public confidence, a weakness that Obamacare defenders figure to exploit.

Democratic senators kept up the pressure Monday, taking to the Senate floor and using Facebook to challenge the Republican repeal effort. In a play on Trump's signature campaign line, Democrats promise that the GOP strategy would "make America sick again."

Activists planned a national effort Tuesday to get Americans to call members of Congress and urge them to vote against legislation that would roll back the law.

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