Daily Herald: 9th Dist. hopefuls on opposite sides of health care debate

Daily Herald: 9th Dist. hopefuls on opposite sides of health care debate
By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Americans have barely started to get familiarized with the 6-month-old health care reform law that went into effect March 23.

Republican candidate Joel Pollak, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky for the 9th Congressional District seat on Nov. 2, thinks the Affordable Care Act law ought to be scrapped.

In a recent interview with the Daily Herald editorial board, Pollak said legislators should go back to the drawing board and draft a law that lowers the cost of health insurance.

"I think it's a sign - Congress already is considering changes to that law because nobody bothered to read 2,300-plus pages of legislation - that we do need to scrap it and start over," Pollak said.

"I think that we should be able to provide every American with health insurance, I just don't think that every American should have to get health insurance from or through the government."

Barring reversal of the new law, the Skokie attorney and former Democrat says the debate over health care should go forward, starting with reforms "that will drive down the cost of health insurance and create real competition in insurance markets like allowing people to buy insurance across state lines," Pollak said.

Pollak said he supports tort reform, saying it would help lower the cost of malpractice insurance and defensive medicine, and believes in expanding medical savings accounts that individuals can used for health expenditures.

"This law that passed does not do that, does not address the overall problem of cost," he said. "Many of the budget projections that were made turned out to be faulty."

Schakowsky, who is running for her seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, rejected the idea that tort reform will provide significant cost savings.

"It is not the litigiousness that is costing, and even defensive medicine plays a very small part in the increase (in health insurance rates)," she said.

Schakowsky said tort reform blames the victim, "somebody who has been hurt by a medical mistake to have to bear the brunt of that. I believe in the civil justice system and juries, not legislators to decide how much is a just compensation."

The Evanston Democrat said she is co-sponsoring a bill with California Sen. Diane Feinstein that would allow the federal and state governments the ability to review insurance rates, and modify them - 24 states already have such oversight powers.

"So that if it is shown that there is no justification for a rate increase, that rate could actually be modified," Schakowsky said.

Schakowsky said also wants to revisit the idea of public option health insurance - which Democrats gave up to get the law passed. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would save $68 billion over seven years, she said.

"This, at base, for me is a moral issue," Schakowsky said, "that the United States of America, like every other developed nation in the world, says to its people 'We will not let you die for lack of health insurance like 45,000 Americans do right now'."

"I think going forward, like with Medicare, like with Social Security, there have always been changes. I think we can make adjustments as we go along."