State Congress members weigh ACA repeal, feedback
U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who like his Democratic colleagues is dead-set against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, says he has been bombarded with constituent calls and emails in recent days.
The overwhelming majority of messages — 1,098 as of Wednesday — oppose the health care overhaul proposed by House Republicans, while just 11 support it, according to the first-term lawmaker from Schaumburg.
“To say there is concern bordering on fear is not an overstatement,” Krishnamoorthi said.
As Illinois Democrats sound alarms, Republicans insist reform is needed because the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, isn’t working. The Republican measure that advances Thursday to the House Budget Committee has come under fire from the political left and right.
Republicans are under pressure to advance the bill to get it to the House floor. But Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, a six-term lawmaker and vocal critic of the ACA, said the proposal up for a vote on Thursday is “not a final product.”
Roskam, who has been dogged by those who want to keep the 2010 law intact, said he wants to know more about how Medicaid reforms in his party’s proposal would impact Illinois, and acknowledges he is “concerned enough to be open to changes.”
He said he is skeptical of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that by 2026, 24 million more people would be uninsured compared to the number now.
But he’s encouraged the CBO found the cost of premiums eventually would decline and the federal deficit would be cut. Average premiums for people who buy their own insurance would decrease after 2020, the report said. The deficit would be cut by $337 billion in the next decade, the CBO said.
After the GOP’s American Health Care Act was unveiled last week, Roskam said in a release that he and colleagues were “pleased” to introduce the measure “following through on our commitment to responsibly repeal and replace Obamacare.”
This week, Roskam said he was more familiar with the measure’s tax provisions and had helped craft them. The proposal would give medical device makers, insurance companies and wealthy Americans a big tax cut.
Roskam said he’s set up small group meetings to hear from Obamacare supporters, though he doesn’t believe they represent the “majority position in my district.” Nobody can be dismissive of the stories of people helped by the ACA, he said, but he believes the law is not sustainable.
Nearly one-third of U.S. counties have only one insurer offering plans on the exchanges set up under the ACA, and the lack of competition “drives prices up,” he said.
Already some insured people are confronted with premiums, deductibles and co-pays so high their access to care is effectively blocked, Roskam added, “I think there’s strong momentum behind repeal-and-replace, it’s likely to be repealed and replaced.”
But Chicago area Democrats say they worry about the decline in Medicaid dollars to the state under the Republican plan. They say populous Cook County as well as rural hospitals would be hit hard by any move that would provide less money to the state-federal program that insures the poor and disabled.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville said parents with disabled children were worried and families with autistic children had reached out to him with concerns about the health care bill.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, said he knows many people whose lives have been saved by the ACA, citing people with cancer or cardiovascular disease whose pre-existing conditions had prevented them from getting insurance.
“When they got health care benefits, they got the treatment and they lived,” he said.
Quigley said he is rankled that House Republicans voted more than 60 times to repeal or defund the ACA rather than work with Democrats to bolster the law.
The current GOP proposal would keep popular parts of the ACA, letting children stay on a parent’s insurance until age 26 and barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. He called those costly provisions that would be retained at the expense of seniors, the middle class and poor.
In addition to the proposed replacement law’s effect on individuals, Krishnamoorthi said he’s also worried about pink slips in the health sector and orders freezing up for companies in his district. One firm is Siemens Healthineers Molecular Imaging, which has its global headquarters in Hoffman Estates and makes devices to detect bone cancer and cardiac conditions.
Other Democrats also reported negative responses to the Republican proposal. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston reported “thousands” of contacts from constituents opposing the GOP plan by a 40-1 margin. U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider of Deerfield and Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez of Chicago also reported overwhelmingly negative response.
The proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood would hurt Gutierrez’s constituents and the Latino community since so many residents and Latinas generally rely on its health care, said Douglas Rivlin, his spokesman.
Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of west suburban Plano has not made a decision on the bill as he reviews the legislation and its impact on Illinois, according to spokesman Jameson Cunningham. Hultgren’s office declined to give a breakdown of contacts from constituents for or against the measure.
“My constituents continue to provide good input from all sides … communicating many reasons why the current system of health insurance isn’t working,” Hultgren said in a statement. He also said that some people in the exchanges under Obamacare have said reforms are necessary because they can’t see their doctor, are cut off from specialists or aren’t covered at their nearest hospital.
House Democrat Robin Kelly of Matteson made note of the discord among Republicans. If the measure passes the House but sinks in the Senate, the GOP “will have to go back to the drawing board, and hopefully Democrats will be at table,” she said.