GOP House candidate wants to end Medicare, Medicaid

The Republican candidate for Illinois' 11th Congressional District seat wants to gradually end the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for older and poorer Americans and those with disabilities.

"We need not immediately eliminate Medicare and Medicaid but we should cease ... future expansion of the programs, allow development of private programs and free individuals to leave Medicare and Medicaid," said Rick Laib, who's challenging Democratic incumbent Bill Foster for the post.

It's not the first time Laib said the government should quit the health care business. But it is the first time since becoming the GOP nominee that he publicly called for those two programs, which serve a combined 119 million people, to end.

Foster, on the other hand, calls health care a human right and said the nation needs to continue moving toward universal insurance coverage. In stark contrast to Laib, Foster has voiced strong support for the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid.

Neither Foster nor a representative responded to requests for comment on Laib's position.

The candidates were asked to define their positions on health care reform, especially regarding the Affordable Care Act, in questionnaires for the Daily Herald and Shaw Media and in follow-up emails.

Laib, a Will County sheriff's sergeant who defeated Krishna Bansal of Naperville to win the Republican nomination in March, said "attractive," privately owned heath care programs have been developed and will continue to develop, eliminating the need for government-run health insurance plans.

"The government should get out of the health care business," said Laib, who unsuccessfully ran for the state House in 2018. "The government need not involve itself in order for the public to have better and more attractive health care options."

When asked if that includes Medicare and Medicaid, Laib said it does.

"Though the programs need not disappear overnight," he said.

While not criticizing their missions, Laib disapproves of Medicare and Medicaid expansions since they were founded in 1965. He said he wants private companies to "develop, provide, and offer their own optional programs."

Foster, who defeated challenger Rachel Ventura of Joliet in the Democratic primary, has a dramatically different philosophy about health care.

A former particle physicist from Naperville, Foster is a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

"One of my proudest votes in Congress was for the Affordable Care Act in 2010," said Foster, who is seeking a sixth full term in Congress. "I remain committed to strengthening the ACA and ensuring that (lifesaving) health care is available and affordable for everyone."

He said he supports a publicly funded health care option because "it is vital to provide people with a high-quality, low-cost coverage option that competes with private insurance plans."

Foster would like to see financial need eliminated as a qualification for Medicaid. He also said he'd like the age of eligibility for Medicare to gradually decrease.

Finally, he supports reducing out-of-pocket costs and drug costs for Americans through legislation such as the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which cleared the U.S. House in December but hasn't yet been voted upon in the Senate.

Foster has represented the 11th District since 2013. He represented the 14th District from 2008 to 2011.

The 11th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.

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