NEWARK, New Jersey --Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at a raucous rally in Newark to oppose Republican efforts to dismantle and replace President Barack Obama's health care law.
Several high-ranking Democrats - including New Jersey's two U.S. senators, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and several members of its Congressional delegation - were among those taking part in the rally staged at the Robert Treat Hotel. It was one of several rallies staged around the country by Democrats ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.
Trump has promised a speedy repeal and replacement of the law that was one of Obama's proudest achievements.
But speakers at the Newark rally stressed that many people may lose their coverage or face other issues if the law is repealed, especially if adopting a replacement plan is not done in tandem with any repeal effort.
"We are here to save the affordable care act, to save lives," Menendez said, noting that nearly 400,000 New Jerseyans now have health care coverage who didn't have it before, meaning they have access to doctors and medical testing. "This is a fight for our lives, the lives of our family, friends and neighbors."
Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told the crowd that the GOP "has no intention" of replacing the law and that they "don't have the votes" for a replacement plan.
"The right-wing (of the Republican Party) does not believe we should provide health care, does not believe we should help people pay for their health premiums, does not believe we should regulate the insurance companies because they don't believe in regulating any type of private industry," Pallone said.
The lone Republican member of the state's Congressional delegation to vote against the GOP proposal on Friday was Rep. Tom MacArthur, a leader of centrists in the House Tuesday Group. He said he opposed it because there was too little information about the replacement, including whether people receiving expanded Medicaid coverage or health care subsidies under the existing law would be protected.
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.