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Thursday, July 19, 2012 01:12 am

Congress candidates clash on health care

One says reform law is too much, the other not enough

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Left:Republican Rodney Davis, right: Democrat David Gill

As the Republican-controlled U.S. House continues its crusade to repeal the federal health care reforms passed in 2010, two candidates seeking to represent Springfield in the House take to the campaign trail with widey different views on the reform law.

Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Democrat David Gill of Bloomington each seek Illinois’ new 13th Congressional seat. While both men say they would not have voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), their reasons are vastly different, with Davis saying the law goes too far and Gill saying it doesn’t go far enough.

Rodney Davis, 42, worked as projects director for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, until May, when Davis began his campaign. Davis says the ACA must be repealed because it is “spiraling our health-care system toward a government-run, socialized, single-payer program.” Many of the consumer protections included in the ACA would be voluntarily adopted by insurance companies anyway, Davis says.

Instead of the ACA, Davis favors a “market-based approach” that includes allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines and expanding health savings accounts. Davis says insurers should have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, one of the consumer protections included in the ACA. He says a market-based approach “does not allow government bureaucrats to run health care,” a reference to health insurance exchanges in which private companies compete to provide government-vetted health insurance plans.

Davis characterizes the ACA as “exploding our deficit by trillions of dollars.”  He points to an analysis by the House Budget Committee Republicans, saying the ACA will cost $2.6 trillion and add $701 billion to the deficit in its first 10 years. However, the Congressional Budget Office, the legislature’s nonpartisan research group, estimated the ACA will cost $938 billion over 10 years and actually reduce the federal deficit by $124 billion over that same period.

David Gill, 52, of Bloomington, is an emergency room doctor at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal. He says he has seen people die because they were uninsured or underinsured, shaping his view that the current health care system is “not working.”

Gill characterizes the ACA as containing good consumer protections against profit-driven insurance companies, but he says the law gives them too much money and power. He says insurance companies routinely charge a 30 to 40 percent “surtax” on  health insurance plans while operating with higher overhead than government-run programs like Medicare. He believes the U.S. should adopt universal health care – a system in which many health care costs are at least partially funded by taxes.

“Uncle Sam is not in it to make money,” Gill says. “Clearly, it’s not a big leap to talk about universal health care. That’s what we already do for the poor, many children, veterans and seniors. … There’s nothing wrong with capitalism, but health care is a different commodity.”

For Davis, the battle to repeal the ACA is about beating back growing government control.

“I believe, after talking with many people throughout the 13th District, that the will of the people is that we must take action to repeal this onerous law and allow for a system through which people make their own decisions about health care,” he says.

Gill sees the repeal effort as “political gamesmanship” meant to garner votes from a public that has been misled about what the ACA does.

“You’ve got a (Republican) party who would like to see a one-term president,” Gill says. “They’ve demonized the term ‘Obamacare,’ but when you actually ask people if they like the idea of letting their kids stay on their insurance policy until age 26… they like it. People like many of the elements of the bill, but if you tell them that’s Obamacare, it’s a different story. This is too important for gamesmanship.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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