With premiums high and coverage options limited, health care reform is among the most important issues in the Nov. 6 election.
Congressional candidates in Illinois’ 14th District have been divided about matters such as how big of a role government should play in health care and whether the Affordable Care Act should be fully dismantled.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren
Hultgren, R-Plano, said one of the differences between his beliefs and those of his Democratic opponent, Lauren Underwood of Naperville, is the role of government in health care.
Hultgren said individuals should be free to make their own health care decisions and not rely on insurance companies or the government. He said he would be open to keeping portions of the Affordable Care Act that have benefited families, but overall, former President Barack Obama’s flagship bill has not been working.
“I still see a lot of families who are struggling with lack of choices, lack of ability to be able to see the doctor that they want to see, very big increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket costs and premium increases, and so what was passed a few years ago really isn’t providing help and relief to our families,” Hultgren said.
To alleviate this, Hultgren said, the marketplace should be opened up to give residents multiple options for health care providers while protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and encouraging innovation.
“Honestly, I want what is going to be good for the families of this district, and having patient-focused care where people truly can get the care and afford it in a quick way, while we still are pushing for the highest quality in the world, so I don’t want to give that up,” he said. “But I also want to make sure that we’re encouraging innovation and again, when government is running things, it doesn’t encourage innovation, and it doesn’t encourage cost savings.”
Underwood has said during numerous campaign events that her decision to run for office was motivated by a promise from Hultgren to support repealing the portion of the Affordable Care Act that protected health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, which she felt was broken when Hultgren voted for the American Health Care Act.
To fix the nation’s broken health care system, Underwood – who believes health care is a human right – said the nation needs to get a handle on prescription drug prices.
In speaking with residents of the 14th Congressional District, Underwood said, she met one father who has to pay $2,000 a month for his diabetic daughter’s insulin. Unlike EpiPens, which also have experienced significant price spikes, Underwood said insulin has multiple brands and a whole class of drugs.
“And so to me, this speaks to a systems-level problem where we need to have creative solutions, including allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices,” Underwood said.
Underwood also proposes creating or restoring incentive plans that insurance providers would have to offer through the risk-corridor program, a provision of the ACA that was meant to cover insurer losses in the first three years of health insurance exchanges.
Although the program has resulted in billions of dollars in outstanding risk-corridor payments, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year stated that the federal government doesn’t owe health insurers more than $12 billion in unpaid payments under this program.