Days after Democrats in the U.S. House pushed through a bill expanding the Affordable Care Act, Springfield Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan said Wednesday that she backs the legislation and criticized U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, for his vote against the measure.
"On Monday, he voted against the Affordable Care Enhancement Act, which specifically addressed the problems that I have heard about from people across central Illinois," including the high cost of prescription drugs, premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, Londrigan said of Davis as she addressed reporters in a web-based news conference. She also said the bill addressed "inequities in health care faced by our communities of color."
"Congressman Davis has refused over and over again to listen to us," she said.
Davis, in a news release after he voted against H.R. 1425, called the measure "partisan legislation that does nothing to lower the overall cost of health care. ..."
"New taxes and government price controls on prescription drugs will not address the skyrocketing costs of the American health care system," Davis said in the statement. "In the midst of a global pandemic where researchers are scrambling to find treatments and cures for COVID-19, we should not be hindering pharmaceutical manufacturers' abilities to innovate and make new prescription drugs."
The fight over health care is a reprise of the 2018 race in the 13th Congressional District, when incumbent Davis defeated Londrigan by less than a percentage point. Londrigan said Wednesday, as she has before, that a life-threatening illness that put her son, Jack, in the hospital for 24 days 2009, emphasized the need for insurance for all. That concern and Davis' attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act propelled her into the race, she said.
Jayne Cioni, 63, of Staunton, a six-year survivor of lung cancer, appeared with Londrigan at the virtual meeting. She noted that Davis "celebrated on the White House lawn" after voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, and supports a lawsuit aimed at declaring it unconstitutional. That, she said, would "leave many Americans without much-needed care."
"Our insurance, though expensive with extremely high deductibles, could not put a cap on my benefits because of the ACA," Cioni said. "I could not be denied coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. I like to say that Obamacare literally saved my life."
Londrigan said if the ACA is overturned, more than 31,000 people in the 13th District would lose health coverage, and more than 282,000 people with pre-existing conditions could lose insurance or "face discrimination in pricing and not be able to afford it."
The bill passed by the House on Monday would expand tax credits for lower-earning Americans for paying insurance premiums, let more people qualify for subsidies and cap the portion of income some consumers would pay for coverage. It would let the government negotiate with pharmaceutical makers over drug prices, and block low-cost plans that the Trump administration has permitted that don't require coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.
The bill passed 234-179, with two Republicans joining 232 Democrats voting for passage. The bill has no chance of passage in the GOP-led Senate, and a White House statement called it an attempt to "exploit the coronavirus pandemic to resuscitate tired, partisan proposals."
The Davis campaign issued a statement noting that Londrigan has backed a plan called Medicare X, pushed by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, that would allow people to join Medicare as a public insurance option. The Davis campaign cited an American Hospital Association report saying that plan could cut reimbursement to healthcare providers by $800 billion over a decade, as Medicare pays less than many insurance plans.
"The so-called cost savings of the Londrigan-backed Medicare X plan are achieved on the backs of hospitals and health care workers," said Aaron DeGroot, spokesman for the Davis campaign. "Londrigan should renounce her support for Medicare X and support good legislation, like Rodney Davis' bipartisan bills to help out-of-work Americans keep their health insurance through COBRA and protect nurses from being furloughed."
"Introducing a public option is something that I have talked about for rural communities and small businesses, because I think it would be good for us to introduce competition back into the markets," Londrigan said when asked about the criticism. "But right now, my first priority when I get to Congress is to strengthen and protect the Affordable Care Act." She said Davis and other Republicans in Congress have carried on "an all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act and on people with pre-existing conditions."
Davis has repeatedly said he wants to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.
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