How 8th District rivals differ on health care reform
The three Democratic candidates hoping to succeed Tammy Duckworth in Congress agree that the controversial Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but they have different ideas on how to improve access to health care.
Villa Park Mayor Deb Bullwinkel, attorney and businessman Raja Krishnamoorthi and state Sen. Michael Noland are contending for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District seat in the March 15 primary.
Duckworth is vacating the seat to run for the U.S. Senate. DuPage County Board member Pete DiCianni is the only candidate on the Republican ballot.
While Noland considers the ACA an important first step in improving access to health care, he prefers to see universal health care provided by the federal government.
Noland argues that the public will for this option exists but has been thwarted in the past by insurance industry lobbying. He said he's asked people whether they would prefer to pay for health care through taxes instead of high insurance premiums that don't always guarantee coverage when needed.
"Time and again they say, 'Yes, absolutely,'" Noland said. "The people really have to engage in this process. They need to reward those who are standing up for this."
Though conservative politicians have often labeled such universal health care as "socialist" -- intended as a pejorative -- Noland said it should be no more controversial than public education.
"I think the electorate is so far beyond that that it's not relevant anymore," Noland said. "People who are denied health care and who pay for it with their lives are not thinking in terms of political doctrine."
Krishnamoorthi and Bullwinkel believe too much progress has been made within the framework of the ACA to abandon it.
"Right now, I commend the president for initiating the ACA, which so far covers 90 percent of Americans. That's great," Krishnamoorthi said. "There are challenges with the ACA that need to be fixed."
Among them are finding ways to persuade more young people to enroll and finding better ways to serve those who have lost their jobs or have been long unemployed.
Krishnamoorthi believes it's a more worthwhile effort to find ways to provide health care coverage for the remaining 10 percent of the population than to start the whole process over.
"I think what's most important is that we keep at the forefront that there are real people being affected by these policies," he said. "Let's do everything we can to improve the system they're in right now."
Bullwinkel said that while she's not opposed to considering universal health care, she believes it's much too early to consider the ACA a failure.
"Some reform is necessary, especially with the rising cost of prescription meds," she said. "The ACA isn't a horrible thing. Access to health care is a positive thing."
Bullwinkel said she couldn't say how much of the controversial nature of the ACA stems from the divisiveness of the two parties. She said she didn't know how much effort at finding common ground has taken place.
But both the working-class families and business owners with whom she's spoken agree that something has to be done about the rising costs of health care. She doesn't consider this a fundamental flaw of the ACA but something fixable.
"The answers may be right in front of us. I definitely don't think (the ACA is) broken," Bullwinkel said.
"Anything of this magnitude is not going to be in its perfected format when it first comes before you. This is really still in its infancy."
Given that health care coverage affects everyone, Bullwinkel said reform of the ACA should be among the top domestic priorities of the next Congress.
The 8th Congressional District includes parts of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties.