Affordable Care Act divides Foster, Senger
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster says the Affordable Care Act is succeeding in its goals of increasing access to "quality, affordable health care," but his Republican challenger for the 11th District seat, Darlene Senger, says it is "government at its worst."
Foster, of Naperville, said he believes the act is reducing the growth of health care costs. He also likes that it is providing opportunities to people who were previously uninsurable.
"People that have been trapped in jobs for decades are now free to leave their jobs and start up small businesses because they can actually have the guarantee of being able to buy insurance," he said. "This has actually, I think, generated a lot of freedom for people that they didn't have."
He does acknowledge, however, that the law is not perfect. Some changes he supports include allowing people to keep their health insurance plans that were slated for cancellation and requiring insurance companies to provide additional information, and a notification, to anyone whose plan was canceled.
He also wants to see medical treatment pricing become more transparent.
"If everyone had to post their prices on the Internet, it would be very easy for a new competitor to come in," he said.
Foster said he opposes Republican proposals that would force states to accept any other state's insurance. He pointed to Louisiana, where he said a large number of insurance commissioners are in jail.
"There is a lot of crummy insurance being sold in Louisiana," he said. "I don't want that market in Illinois. I don't want to force Illinois to have to accept that."
Foster believes there have been some missed opportunities to improve the act due to politics. He pointed to a Republican proposal he supported to audit tax credits that are given out under the Affordable Care Act, to make sure they were going to the right people.
The proposal, he said, was scheduled for a floor vote when the Department of Health and Human Services expressed its support for it. Foster believes that made the Republicans panic because they couldn't handle the idea of having a bipartisan majority approve it.
"As a result, they pulled it back into the rules committee and inserted a bunch of poison pills to guarantee that no Democrats would ever vote for it and that's what we got a chance to vote on," he said. "It sort of crystallizes the whole attitude. Instead of actually having an improvement, we got nothing."
Although Republicans have tried to repeal the law more than 50 times, Senger said she doesn't think it can be undone at this point because of the number of new enrollees. That doesn't change her feeling, however, that the act is falling short of what it promised.
"There's no question as a whole, as an aggregate, the objective here of lowering costs has not occurred. Premiums have gone up, costs have gone up," she said, adding that she isn't happy with the stories she's heard of people losing their doctors.
In a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire, Senger, also of Naperville, said the act is "bloated, costly and forcing a consumer to buy a product they don't necessarily want from a supplier that doesn't necessarily want to sell it."
Like Foster, she supports the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. She also likes how the act gives dependents coverage until they turn 26.
Still, she believes the best way to reform health care is by looking to the free market for solutions instead of instituting mandates. That includes allowing coverage to be purchased across state lines.
"There's some pluses (in the act as it's written), but if you let the market compete, that's where you can get the cost drivers," she said. "Let's let the marketplace solve how some of this stuff works."
Senger said Congress should really "think through" a piece of the act that requires employers with 50 to 99 workers to offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers. The mandate has been put off until 2016.
She also said she doesn't agree with legislation Foster supports protecting women from being denied contraception coverage following the Supreme Court ruling that for-profit companies don't have to provide access to contraception.
The 11th District covers parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, including Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge and Joliet.