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Thousands rally against move to axe Obama's health law

Thousands have rallied across America to attack Republican efforts to repeal Barack Obama's health care law.

In Michigan, people braved freezing temperatures to hear former US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders add his voice to the protest.

"This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world," Vermont senator Mr Sanders told protesters, who included trade unionists .

"It is time we got our national priorities right."

The rally, in a car park at Macomb Community College in the Detroit suburb of Warren, was one of dozens of staged by Democrats across the US to highlight opposition to the move to scrap the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Lisa Bible, 55, of Bancroft, Michigan, who has an autoimmune disease and high cholesterol, said the existing law had been an answer to her and her husband's prayers, but feared that if it was repealed her family may get stuck with her medical bills.

"I'm going to get really sick and my life will be at risk," said the online antiques dealer.

US president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to overturn and replace the Affordable Care Act and majority Republicans in Congress have begun began the process of repealing it using a budget manoeuvre that requires a bare majority in the Senate.

The law has delivered health coverage to about 20 million people but is saddled with problems such as rapidly-rising premiums and large co-payments.

Britt Waligorski, 31, a health care administrator for a dental practice, said she did not get health insurance through work but had been covered through the health law for three years.

While the premiums have gone up, she said she was concerned that services for women would be taken away if it was repealed.

"It's done a lot for women for their annual check-ups, for mammograms - women's health in general," she said.

"If this gets repealed we're going to go back to the old days when that's not covered."

At a rally in San Francisco, Silvia Pena, a 45-year-old nanny, said she had never held insurance until she enrolled in the Affordable Care Act six years ago.

"I don't have health issues but you can need insurance any time," she said.

"We should all have access to health services."

About 2,000 people cheered and held rainbow and American flags and signs that read "Don't Make America Sick Again" and "Health Care For All" at the rally.

Patients who survived cancer, strokes and other health difficulties are sharing stories on how they benefited from the mandated health insurance.

In Los Angeles, organisers of the rally outside the LA County/USC Medical Centre warned that a repeal of the law without a replacement would throw the state's health care system into chaos and strip coverage from five million Californians.

Rallies in other cities in support of the health law also were well attended.

Police estimated about 600 people turned up in Portland, Maine, and hundreds also attended events in Newark, New Jersey, Johnston, Rhode Island, Richmond, Virginia and Boston.

The health law has provided subsidies and Medicaid coverage for millions who do not 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, but face internal disagreements on how to pay for any replacement and how to protect consumers and insurers during a long phase-in of an alternative.

AP

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