Denver rally to save ACA draws close to 500 people

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U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran and some 200 people who couldn't fit in the Laborers International Union Local 720 building turned out Sunday to fight against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. 

"Even if you get insurance from your employer, you're not going to be safe from the rippling and chaotic effect of repeal," DeGette told the audience of nearly 300 people inside the hall. "Repealing ACA makes health care across the board more expensive. Premiums would not just inch up, they would skyrocket up."

Nor was the spirited defense of ACA was limited to politicians. Home healthcare worker Corletta Hithon said without the expanded access to Medicaid offered under the ACA, she would be unable to manage her fibromyalgia.

"I want the same respect that I give my people whose homes I walk into. I give them dignity to stay in their houses. I want the same dignity and respect," she said.

Inside, the crowd applauded speakers . (Megan Arellano/Denverite)

But the best defense is a good offense, and speakers went after politicians who have voted to repeal the ACA, including Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman.

"Last I heard, [Coffman] is hiding out in some undisclosed location," said Ron Ruggiero, president of Local 105 of the Service Employees International Union. "He doesn't want to face rooms like this."

Ruggiero was referring to a community meeting Saturday in which a few hundred people showed up to ask Coffman about what would happen to them if the ACA goes away. Coffman met one on one and in small groups with about 70 constituents -- a spokesman said that was all the meeting was intended to be -- and left early out a back door.

"I want to issue a challenge to Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman," Ruggiero said. "I want [them] to come sit in a room full of people of the 600,000 Coloradans who are going to lose their care."

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne addresses the crowd. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)

Likewise, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne directed some of her comments to machinations in the current legislative session.

"We have someone who wants to send us to the federal exchange in our state legislative session this year, which we want to resist," she said. "If they do away with the federal exchange, why would we send our people from Colorado who are here getting great health insurance?"

Lynne also said that Colorado is looking to the future and fighting to keep insurers in the exchange, something that "will make me unpopular with my former employer."

Afterward, 40-year-old Leisa Schaim said that she attended Sunday's rally because ACA was the thing "that finally made her life work."

With a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis in her 20s and later ulcerative colitis in her 30s, she faced crippling medical debt because she didn't have insurance. After getting into the ACA and receiving care, she says she's since been able to return work part-time.

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