By Roberta Codemo, Freelance Contributor
Congress was in recess this past week, and congressmen returned to their home districts to face angry constituents who are worried about what is happening in Washington with regard to the Affordable Care Act at a time when support for it has never been higher. In town hall meetings and protests outside district offices, people are demanding answers from Republican congressmen and often not getting them.
In Springfield, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Illinois’ 18th District, and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois’ 13th District, have refused to meet with their constituents regarding the ACA. This is unconscionable. Mid-term elections are coming up in two years. We have the power to vote you out.
I have made multiple phone calls, sent emails and even tweeted to my representative, Rodney Davis, requesting a meeting and received only a form letter in return. As an endometrial and ovarian cancer survivor, this issue is very important to me. The ACA saved my life, and I have become an outspoken advocate against repealing and replacing it.
Because Illinois is one of 31 states which voted to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals, I was able to get insurance, which covered the cost of my surgery, cancer treatments and continuing follow-up care. As a freelance journalist, I barely make $12,000 a year. Without expanded Medicaid, I would probably be dead now because I could not have paid for my care out-of-pocket.
I submitted a meeting request form and was assured by Davis’ Springfield staffer at a recent Traveling Help Desk that his staff was working to arrange a meeting during the recent Congressional recess. Despite a last-minute phone call I made Friday, I received no response from his office.
Last week, Rep. LaHood met with about 100 members of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce in a private meeting for a legislative update. I was there to cover the event for Springfield Business Journal and was denied entry. I was asked by LaHood’s district director Brad Stotler why I was there, how I heard about the event and what angle I planned to take with the story.
Stotler told me to send my questions to him and he would have LaHood answer them. I emailed my questions on Friday and sent a follow-up email on Saturday thanking him for responding to my questions after receiving no reply. In response, I received an email from Stotler that another staff member was being copied on the email. When I called LaHood’s office last Friday, I was told he was flying back to Washington, D.C. on Sunday, and the staffer didn’t know whether he could meet with me. A week after I first sent my questions, I still have not received a response.
I caught up with Samantha Darr from Chapin after Lahood’s event. Darr, who was allowed into the meeting, says LaHood wants to keep parts of the ACA, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26.
According to Darr, LaHood also wants to rein in Medicaid, encourage competition between states to reduce health care costs and eliminating government involvement in regulating a for-profit industry. This is simply ridiculous. For example, if insurance companies are able to write policies across state lines, what will keep them from locating in states that require the least amount of coverage?
The Republicans have a number of proposals on the table. Under their plans, subsidies would no longer be tied to income, sicker individuals would be charged more if there is a gap in coverage, adults ages 55-64 would be charged higher premiums, and Medicaid would be capped going forward, among others.
While our congressmen say everyone will have access to health insurance, the key word is access. Unless the new plan is affordable by everyone and offers the same level of protections and guarantees that the ACA does, it will do more harm than good.
In effect, the old, the sick and the poor would be hurt the most by the Republican plans. In Illinois, 1,150,000 would lose their health insurance. This is unacceptable. Health care is a universal right.
As it stands, if the ACA is repealed and replaced, I will lose my health insurance coverage. That terrifies me because I don’t know what I’ll do. No one should be placed in this position.
My question to my congressmen is this: Are you afraid that if you see the face of a constituent who will be harmed by your healthcare plan that it will be harder to vote for it?