14th Congressional hopefuls talk health care
Democrats seeking contrast among the three candidates on their party's ticket for the 14th Congressional District this spring need look no further than the issue of health care.
John Hosta, from Spring Grove, is sticking to the free market ideals he espoused in his first run for Congress two years ago. The Affordable Care Act must find balance between providing insurance to every American and not wading into "totalitarian" government regulation of the health care industry, he said.
"We need to make adjustments to the Affordable Care Act, but we need to make changes in order to not allow monopolies to control things," Hosta said. "We cannot allow monopolies in the pharmaceutical business and micromonopolies in the treatment of diseases and health care service."
Hosta favors encouraging competition in the prescription drug industry. He wants to decrease the life span of exclusive drug patents to allow more generic versions for consumers. He also wants to allow insurance companies to compete for customers across state borders and force hospitals and doctors to publicize the costs of their services upfront. Hosta would pair that menu of services with a tax incentive or medical savings plan incentive to get consumers to voluntarily restrict their health care spending.
Beyond that, he's against the government getting too deeply involved in telling health care businesses what they can and can't do.
"I don't believe the government is overreaching with the (Affordable Care Act), " Hosta said. "But when it starts to dictate things on the pharmaceutical businesses and on the medical staffs, then I think it begins to overreach, and the system will start to fail to provide what it needs to provide."
A universal plan
In direct contrast, Jim Walz, of Gurnee, favors a gradual path toward universal health care.
He'd begin with allowing government negotiation of health care services covered by Medicare. He also wants to increase competition in the pharmaceutical industry by allowing the importation of prescription drugs from other countries.
"Universal health care is a right, not a privilege," Walz said. "We need to give people, especially seniors, security that Medicare isn't going to be privatized. Imagine what would have happened in the last recession of 2007 if we had privatized Medicare or Social Security. The people who rely on those programs would be out on the street. Nobody in America should have to worry about their basic health care."
Walz agrees universal health care would increase taxes for individuals. But he believes that increase would be "largely offset" by not having to pay insurance premiums and deductibles.
Jesse Maggitt, of Plainfield, is a fan of the goal of helping every day Americans gain access to health care through the Affordable Care Act. But achieving that goal means the act "needs work."
Maggitt said transparency and communication to the public must be amplified to overcome fearmongering by Republicans that hurts participation by states and individuals.
"Fear clouds judgment," Maggitt said. "When judgment is clouded, you cannot make the right decisions. We have to provide the right focus for people."
Maggitt's main focus for tweaking the Affordable Care Act relates to the excise tax slated to hit companies in 2018.
The 40 percent tax will apply to health benefits valued at more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Right now, companies that offer health insurance get a tax write off for the cost of the coverage provided to workers. The excise tax would be the first time companies would get hit with a tax penalty for expanding insurance coverage instead of receiving an additional tax break.
Some believe the excise tax may make some businesses reluctant to provide anything but bare-minimum insurance benefits.
Maggitt favors a tiered and transparent tax that factors in the size of the company providing insurance and the impact the tax would have on that company and its employees.
"When businesses are taxed by the United States, businesses will defer some of that operating cost on to the consumer and most definitely to their employees," Maggitt said. "We have to make sure our citizens are being treated fairly so they don't take the brunt of the costs. And we need to make sure this tax is something the businesses can reasonably handle."
The primary is March 15.