District 6 candidates debate health care, saving Medicare

Updated 3/14/2012 6:34 AM
  • Geoffrey Petzel

    Geoffrey Petzel

  • Maureen Yates

    Maureen Yates

  • Leslie Coolidge

    Leslie Coolidge

The three Democrats running in the 6th Congressional District have differing priorities when it comes to health care coverage and shoring up Medicare and Medicaid.

Maureen Yates, Leslie Coolidge and Geoff Petzel face off in Tuesday's primary. The winner will run against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton attorney, and independent Khizar Jafri, a Wheaton traffic analyst, in the November general election.

A heart attack this summer when he had no insurance propelled Petzel, a 28-year-old Lake Zurich resident, into the election.

He sees flaws in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act and supports a single-payer, universal health care system.

Under his plan, Petzel, executive director of Friends of the Fox River, advocates a new 8 percent payroll tax on employers and employees. That coupled with maintaining the current level of federal government spending would provide health care coverage for everyone in America, Petzel said.

"It would lower costs for everybody," he said.

Yates, a 75-year-old Barrington Hills retired businesswoman, said the Affordable Care Act gets the nation off to a good start.

But to improve on it, she thinks Medicare should be able to purchase drugs in bulk from pharmaceutical companies for substantial savings and that all medical records should be electronic.

"There's an awful lot of time being wasted with keeping (paper) records," Yates said.

Coolidge, a 52-year-old Barrington accountant, agreed the health care reforms are a positive step.

"To me, the next priority is to focus on containing costs," she said.

Coolidge backs electronic medical records, cracking down on fraud and abuse in Medicare and a cost-benefit analysis of how the health care system works.

"Does everyone have to have five tests or can there only be one?" she asked. "We need an analysis of what's appropriate versus what it costs, and we should make sure we're balancing those."

Millions of retiring baby boomers are putting new demands on the system, and Coolidge thinks it's important to carefully examine Medicare projections before "doing anything that could undermine the safety net."

Eliminating Medicare fraud would help preserve the program, she thinks.

And, "according to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will continue to provide the current level of benefits for the next 20 years even if it is not changed. So there need be no changes at all for those currently enrolled," Coolidge noted.

Yates thinks an investigative committee should be created to look into improving efficiency and saving money for Medicare and Medicaid.

She opposes changing the current rules for Medicare recipients but said, "for the influx of retirees, give them the option to stay working for at least two years -- this would bring in revenue," Yates said.

If the Medicare program is unchanged, trillions of dollars will be added to the national debt, Petzel said. His plan for universal health care would resolve the Medicare and Medicaid funding crisis, he said.

"I support working on comprehensive health care reforms, but I will not support a reduction in benefits or an extension of the eligibility age for Medicare under any circumstances," Petzel said.

For more information about the campaigns, check out the following websites.

http://coolidgeforcongress.com; http://www.petzelforcongress.com; or http://peopleformaureenyates.com.

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