JOLIET – Democratic Congressman Bill Foster, D-Naperville, hosted a forum on the Affordable Care Act and Health Care on Thursday night at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center.
Health care professionals and more than 100 people attended to discuss their concerns about the potential repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and what that would mean for people concerned with losing their insurance.
Most of the attendees were seniors.
The panel discussion included Dr. Kathleen Burke, the director of Substance Abuse Initiatives of Will County; A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the Illinois Hospital Association; Courtney Heddermann, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP; and Perry Maier, executive director of Open Door Health Illinois.
Local residents came with questions on topics such as prescription drug costs, veteran’s health care, why premiums have been rising and even the possibility of a single-payer system providing universal health care.
Many of the attendees and panelists brought up concerns and had detailed questions about the current state of health care policy.
“I’m so impressed with the level of sophistication that is going on in the public,” Foster said. “I’m so impressed with the quality of questions we’re getting.”
One of the speakers on the panel was Joliet resident Clarice Hearn, who spoke about her challenges with cancer and getting affordable coverage.
Hearn battled cancer twice, used medication for depression during her divorce and now walks with a cane due to nerve damage.
She struggled to get anything more than catastrophic care earlier in life because she worked administrative jobs, at nonprofits and as a part-time music instructor at the University of St. Francis and Moraine Valley Community College.
She eventually got better health insurance through a full-time
position at St. Francis, but she said she wants to share her story not for her sake, but for others who are worse off.
“I sincerely believe that health care is a human right and not a commodity to be sold on the marketplace,” Hearn said.
Hearn is an advocate for a national single-payer health care system, which she has wanted Foster to support. She commended him for being open-minded enough to have her join the panel. She also made a point in defense of the ACA which she said makes it illegal to charge women more than men because of benefits for maternity care.
“If anyone here thinks that men shouldn’t have to contribute to maternity care, immaculate conception went out 2000 years ago,” Hearn said.
Foster voted against the House version of the Republican ACA repeal bill, then called the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May. After it passed the House by a slim margin, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of Republican Senators prepared their version of the repeal bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
Multiple attendees and panelists argued the bill would increase costs to patients and would result in 20 million less people with insurance over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Foster said he values these opportunities to hear from his constituents because it helps him think about the concerns they have when he is back in Washington voting on laws.
“It serves as a check on my thinking when we’re making policy,” Foster said. “It helps me clarify that image that I have in my mind of what they’re thinking about, the struggles they have in their lives that I’m trying to help them with.”