Democratic candidates for the 14th Congressional seat shared thoughts on improving America's health care system, especially in regards to the future of Medicare, at a forum Wednesday night in Naperville.
There are seven candidates vying for the chance to unseat incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren in November. All but one appeared at the forum, sponsored by the Democratic Party of Wheatland Township.
Victor Swanson believes Congress must work to shore up the Affordable Care Act while moving toward universal health care. He favors putting more money into the pool for people with pre-existing conditions to ensure no loss of coverage. Swanson said the way to keep Medicare solvent is to lift the cap on taxable earnings that pay into the trust fund.
"We need to increase the cap so wealthier people pay for the expenses of others," Swanson said. "It's just a humanitarian effort."
Matt Brolley said fixing the Affordable Care Act means making changes that prevent rising health care costs. He believes allowing younger, healthier people to buy into Medicare pool can ensure there are enough funds to shore up the program.
"We need to invest the dollars today so it's around at the time I retire," Brolley said. "We should not just look one year down the road to the next election, but to the next generation."
John Hosta said the lack of competition and a true free market in the health care system is the major factor in rising costs. He believes pharmaceutical companies can't be allowed to block affordable and effective alternative medicines. Funneling more tax dollars into the Medicare seems should be a means of last resort for shoring up the program.
"I'm not opposed to funding our health care programs by raising taxes in certain areas, but we have to get around to the problem that our costs are astronomical, and they have to be brought down."
Jim Walz, who won the Democratic nomination but lost to Hultgren two years ago, said the way to ensure Medicare's future is to give Medicare to everyone.
"I'm a Medicare-for-all advocate," Walz said. "We should all have Medicare for all right now. We are the only industrialized country in the world to not offer basic medical care to their citizens. I find that immoral."
George Weber said the Affordable Care Act is just the first step toward a better health care system in America. The blueprint to that better system is as simple as looking at nations, like Canada, with better health outcomes and cheaper costs, and matching that structure.
"The stories we hear about people racking up huge debts, we're the only country in the world that has these problems," Weber said. "Medicare for all, universal coverage, single-payer, copying what they have in Canada, all we have to do is pick the best one, and we won't have these problems anymore."
Lauren Underwood said there are more than 37,000 people in the 14th Congressional District who only have coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. She pledged to work on improving the affordability of drug prices and protecting against sudden price spikes, such as a recent rise in insulin costs for diabetics. She also said there must be a change to the barrier of having insurance to gain access to drug rehabilitation facilities if the country really wants to attack the opioid epidemic.
Underwood also called for more accountability in the health care system and Medicare program. She said hospitals that don't meet performance standards should not receive federal funds. She said Medicare also needs better resources to root out fraud.
"Fraud and abuse continue to be a problem," she said. "We need to increase the resources to properly identify, take to court and prosecute people who have a pattern of scamming the program."
Daniel Roldan-Johnson did not attend the forum. In an answer to a Daily Herald questionnaire about health care, he said the Declaration of Independence enshrines the right to health care in the call to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"In order to ensure life, health care needs to be accessible to all," he wrote. "I support the Affordable Care Act with a public option that would be (competitive) in the marketplace. Health care should not be a privilege only for those that can afford it."