8th Congressional District Democratic candidates spar over health care
All three candidates in the March 17 Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District agree that access to health care should be improved, but they disagree on how major the change should be.
Challenging second-term incumbent Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg for the party's nomination are William Olson of Schaumburg and Inam Hussain of Libertyville.
Olson expressed his support for Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-all bill, despite concerns over what he described as a few flaws that include delays in receiving benefits.
"I do believe it's time we cut the snake at its head and remove the profit incentive from our health care," Olson said. "Medicare-for-all is a name for universal health care, so yes, I would support it. I would vote for that bill as it presently reads and I would offer at least one or two amendments to it."
Hussain, a medical doctor, said he has the practical view of the shortfalls of the current system that leaves 20 million Americans uninsured and forces many seniors to choose between paying for groceries or paying for their prescription medications.
Assuring access to health care "is the responsibility of the institute which we call government," Hussain said. "It is about time for us to go to a single-payer system, which is close to Medicare for all." He added that such a bill can include a provision ensuring people have access to doctors near where they live.
But Krishnamoorthi said a choice between private insurance and a public option that would help drive down costs is what most Americans want.
He said he has co-sponsored legislation both to fill in the gaps of Obamacare and to allow an early buy-in for Medicare for people ages 50 to 64 who often are vulnerable to layoffs and lack affordable health care if they do lose their jobs.
"We also have to ensure universal access to quality health care and health insurance. In that regard, I fought repeated attempts to try to repeal Obamacare in the past Congress," Krishnamoorthi said. "I think the vast majority of people with private health insurance want to keep their private health insurance."
He added that health coverage is an area where labor unions negotiate aggressively on behalf of their members, and unions don't want to lose private insurance.
Olson responded that is a goal of unions only because of the current health care system, in which the cost of care would be "obscene" without insurance. He criticized Krishnamoorthi's suggestion that a coexisting public option would drive down the cost of private insurance.
"This is a fantasy and it is a fantasy peddled by persons in our Congress who are beholden to health interests, health conglomerates and insurers," Olson said.
The Republican Party has not yet slated a candidate to run in the November general election for the 8th District.
The district is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes areas of northwest Cook, northeast DuPage and northeast Kane counties.
Hussain does not reside in the 8th District, but congressional candidates are not required to live in the districts they seek to represent, either before or after election.