6th District candidates offer different cures for Medicare

In the heart of the 6th Congressional District is the DuPage Community Clinic — a free health care service in Wheaton that served 5,000 people in need last year.

The plight of those without medical insurance, people who are covered but worry about rising costs and an aging population that will increase demands on Medicare have made health care a central issue in the Nov. 6 election.

But Democrat Leslie Coolidge and incumbent Republican Congressman Peter Roskam couldn't be farther apart on President Obama's health care law and fixing the projected Medicare shortfall.

Barrington Hills accountant Coolidge acknowledged that so-called Obamacare wasn't perfect but said it can be improved on. “We're beginning to find that when people understand it, they actually like it. I think we'll probably find there are pieces that are not working well that we need to tinker with.

“That fact it provides additional coverage is very important. The fact it deals with pre-existing conditions and allows people who just didn't have the opportunity to access health care (before) is critical.”

Wheaton attorney Roskam says the president's plan is “filled with broken promises, higher costs, decreased care and unsustainable programs.”

He supports fellow congressman and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget that recommends an overhaul of Medicare. The Ryan plan would leave Medicare unchanged for anyone age 55 and over. Once those who are younger than 55 now are eligible, they would be given a payment to be used to enroll in Medicare or a private insurance company, indexed to inflation. The age a person could enroll in Medicare would gradually be raised from 65 to 67.

Critics say Ryan's idea is a voucher plan that won't fully cover health care expenses for a new generation of seniors.

Roskam counters that the proposal is a gamechanger for Medicare, which will be insolvent in 12 years otherwise.

“Up until now, the reining political orthodoxy says, ‘Medicare is the third rail of politics — if you talk about it, you're going to lose, so don't talk about and say you're for these programs.' To say you're for something that will be insolvent — there's no kindness in that,” Roskam said.

Coolidge scoffed at myriad House Republican votes to repeal the new health care law. She noted it will save money by: reducing visits to the emergency room by ill people without insurance, offering preventive care for woman such as cancer screening and helping seniors pay for prescription drugs.

“Rather than continue to vote to repeal the bill, we should let it move forward and focus on the other piece of puzzle, which is — what are we going to do to keep the costs down?” Coolidge said.

Roskam thinks concerns about vouchers are unsubstantiated. In speaking with seniors, “I don't hear them say, ‘I want less control of my future,' they're interested in more control of their future,” he said.

Roskam also advocates using technology to stop Medicare fraud, and he is pushing for tort reform that would “control runaway (malpractice) lawsuits.”

Coolidge argued that, “if someone is truly harmed they need to have recourse through the courts.”

The 6th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

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