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Health rally
Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, speaks at a rally Thursday at the Colorado Capitol pushing back against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
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Groups push back against health care repeal, as state looks for solutions

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Activists again took to the steps of the Colorado Capitol on Thursday to demand that Congress and state lawmakers think twice about repealing components of federal health care law.

The rally — one of several so far this year — came as part of a lobby day at the Capitol involving health care consumers, business owners and left-leaning advocacy groups.

Advocates earlier in the day heard from Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a former health plan executive, who rolled out an “ambitious” health care agenda for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration, according to a report by Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal.

The plan includes efforts to assist rural Coloradans with health care costs and for hospitals to disclose more about internal finances, according to the Business Journal.

Some of the Hickenlooper administration’s efforts on health care could be viewed as a preemptive strike as the Republican-controlled Congress and White House quietly move forward with plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Hickenlooper administration is considering as much as $6 million in the upcoming fiscal year to pay for the proposals, according to the Business Journal.

Finding that money would be difficult, as lawmakers have already been faced this year with trimming as much as $600 million to balance the upcoming budget. Fights continue over funding for transportation and education.

Given the uncertainty surrounding health care, advocates on Thursday stood in the cold as a light snow fell on the steps of the Capitol. They were chanting, “Protect our care” and “No repeal.”

Reyna Ulibarri, a sociologist who suffers from hyperthyroidism and depression, as well as a traumatic brain injury stemming from a hit-and-run car accident, said she is feeling “terror” over the “impending plot twist in which I may or may not lose access to essential health care.”

“Widely accessible health care benefits everyone in society,” Ulibarri said to cheers.

She added that had it not been for access to health care, she wouldn’t have been able to complete her doctor of philosophy.

Joining the advocates was a handful of lawmakers, including Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who pushed this summer for a universal health care system in Colorado that was widely rejected by voters.

“This is the time for acts of peaceful civil disobedience,” Aguilar said.

In the Colorado legislature, Republicans are pushing a repeal of the state’s health insurance exchange, though the measure stands an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled House. Republicans say money used to fund the exchange is better spent elsewhere.

But Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, said that with the uncertainty on the federal level, Colorado must absolutely maintain its exchange.

“Repealing the local marketplace would leave Coloradans’ health care to the game of chance that Congress and the federal government are playing right now,” Esgar said. “We can’t afford to let that happen.”

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