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Newsday: Hundreds attend rally in New Cassel to support Affordable Care Act

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Long Island, NY, January 15, 2017 | comments
By Scott Eidler

About 1,500 people rallied in New Cassel on Sunday against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and against Republican threats to defund Planned Parenthood.

The rally, among 34 promoted by Planned Parenthood across the country this weekend, was held at the Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel.

The rally came days after both houses of Congress approved budgets that laid the groundwork for repealing President Obama’s signature health care law. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to “repeal and replace” the program, but congressional Republicans are divided on how soon a new program should be installed.

The 2010 law, which requires individuals to secure health care through Medicaid or taxpayer-subsidized plans, covers 20 million Americans.

Speakers included Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), as well as patients who said their health care struggles would have been more difficult without the Affordable Care Act. With chants of “Mend it, don’t end it,” those in the packed auditorium urged top Republicans to reverse course.

The crowd included a number of supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who lost the Democratic primary last spring to Hillary Clinton. Some chanted, “Thank you Bernie,” and signs read, “Protect Planned Parenthood,” “Health Care For All” and “Single Payer Now.”

Although Suozzi promoted the chant, “Mend it, don’t end it,” he said “this is a very complicated issue.” Some yelled back that it was “simple.” He said, “Health care in America is an incredibly complicated issue, and everyone’s trying to make it very simplistic.”

“Now, we have President-elect Trump,” he said, as the crowd booed the incoming president. “I want you to follow the leadership of President Barack Obama, who said we want this president to succeed, because if he succeeds, we all succeed. We have to start out recognizing the fact that in a few days, Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States of America, and the challenge for us is to listen to some of the things that he’s been saying.”

For example, Suozzi said, “He thinks we would like to see health care be more affordable. . . . We agree with that idea.”

Rice recalled voting against repeals of the law, which had always been vetoed by Obama. With Trump set to take office on Friday, “now they get to actually do it,” she said. “I hope everyone’s voice here today is heard down in Washington.”

“You can’t repeal with no replacement,” Rice said after the rally.

Suozzi also said the “most urgent concern” would be if “they were to repeal the Affordable Care Act and not replace it with something better. That would be so devastating.”

Other speakers included Rachel Siehs, 28, a licensed mental health counselor from Melville, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last year and sought health care while unemployed for several months. She was covered under the New York State health exchange. Ron Motta, 44, of Huntington spoke of the challenges his 11-year-old son faced after he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.

“This is quite literally a matter of life or death,” Motta said.
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