Foster, Ventura spar on health care issues in 11th Congressional District race

  • U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and challenger Rachel Ventura in the 11th Congressional District Democratic primary discuss health care issues during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview.

      U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and challenger Rachel Ventura in the 11th Congressional District Democratic primary discuss health care issues during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/3/2020 11:32 AM

Is Medicare For All achievable or a Democratic pipe dream in the current partisan political climate?

That question is one at the center of the campaign between U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and challenger Rachel Ventura running in the 11th Congressional District Democratic primary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I don't think it's politically achievable," said Foster, 64, of Naperville, who is running for his fifth term. "I don't think that a plan that takes away the health coverage from the majority of Americans who are satisfied with their care is wise from either a policy point or a political point of view. It's simply not going to be viable."

Ventura, 38, of Joliet, accuses Foster of parroting talking points of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries that contribute to his campaign.

"This is not about taking away Cadillac plans," Ventura said of Medicare For All. "It's making sure everybody has access to doctors. This is about, again, putting people over profits. The reality is that (existing) insurance isn't giving people choices."

The proposed Medicare For All Act of 2019 -- currently sitting in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health -- would establish a national health insurance program covering medically necessary or appropriate treatments and services, including prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, dental and vision services and long-term care. It prohibits cost-sharing and other charges for covered services. Private insurers and employers could offer supplemental insurance coverage without duplicating its benefits.

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"It's not a massive tax," Ventura said. "It's a 9% payroll deductible, is what has been estimated. We pay twice as much in health care costs than any other nation and our life expectancy is sliding. That's ridiculous. Our insurance companies are gouging us."

Foster instead supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion -- the latter requiring raising taxes on the wealthy. He is optimistic Republicans would support Medicaid expansion because it is keeping rural hospitals in Republican districts alive.

He also favors lowering the eligibility threshold for Medicare to below 65 years old and allowing people to buy in.

"There are some calculations that indicate that you can buy something that would be as good or better than what's available at the Obamacare exchanges," Foster said.

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