Illinois Republicans already in Congress or hoping to get there vowed Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, while one Democratic candidate said the law doesn't go far enough.
Opponents of the health care reform law said they were surprised and disappointed by the court's decision, which upheld major provisions, including the mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance.
"This law takes away our rights as individuals to make choices about our finances and personal freedoms, like whether or not to buy insurance," said U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
He said the plan will raise premiums and taxes. Shimkus said legislators were "deceitful" when they argued during congressional debate that the bill wasn't a tax but later defended it based on the government's power to tax, the basis of the court's ruling.
His Democratic opponent for the newly redrawn 15th Congressional District, Angela Michael, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
But Dr. David Gill, a Democrat running for the 13th Congressional District seat now held by Republican Rep. Timothy Johnson, said the ruling ensures that important health care gains will be preserved. Those include prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to keep their children insured until age 26, and ending lifetime caps on insurance coverage.
He saluted Obama for getting Washington to focus on the issue but pledged to fix "flaws" in the act if elected.
Gill, an emergency room and family practice physician, supports expanding Medicare — the government insurance program for older Americans — to people of any age.
He said it was a mistake to design a plan that forces Americans to buy insurance from for-profit insurance companies. Medicare is more cost-efficient than private insurance companies, doesn't profit by denying care, and ensures a secure retirement for millions of seniors, Gill said.
Rodney Davis, the Republican candidate for Johnson's congressional seat, said he would try to repeal the act if elected, calling it "a $2.6 trillion boondoggle" that represents a massive tax increase on middle-class Americans.
"Nothing has changed. In fact, this issue defines the importance of this election," Davis said.
Johnson, R-Champaign, issued a statement saying the court's ruling must be respected but called the Affordable Care Act "ill-conceived, overly broad and burdensome for American taxpayers."
"The goal was to lower health care costs and expand access, and I believe it does neither," he said.
The law contains no incentives for preventive care, the best way to lower health costs, he said.
"Further, the taxing provisions will act as another disincentive to job creation at a time we are already on the brink of recession," he said.
Republicans said they prefer market-based reforms to lower costs, increase choice, expand the number of insured Americans and let people "keep the health care they want," as Johnson put it.
Shimkus said he would support allowing individuals to deduct the cost of insurance like businesses do, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, creating state and regional high-risk pools, and passing medical liability reform.
Davis called for a "market-based health care safety net" to address those who are uninsured or underinsured, and increased use of health savings accounts so that patients become better health care consumers rather than letting doctors and insurance companies set rates.
"The solution is not to create a government-run HMO," he said.
Davis said he has a friend with a high insurance deductible who needed knee surgery but couldn't find a doctor who'd tell him how much it would cost.
But Gill said a market-based system is what the U.S. has had for decades, arguing that health care is a different kind of commodity.
"When I'm seeing a patient whose appendix is inflamed, he doesn't have time to call around pricing appendectomies. Even if he did, it would be hard to get a straight answer" because of all the providers involved, from the hospital to the surgeon and radiologist, he said.
"It just doesn't lend itself to market policies. It never has, and it never will," he said.
Republicans in the House plan to call another vote on the law after the July Fourth recess to try overturning it, but Shimkus acknowledged that's unlikely in the Democrat-controlled Senate. He's hopeful voters will respond on Election Day.
Gill said any talk of repealing the law is "obstructionism" at this point. He believes voters care more about the economy and jobs, though health care is intertwined with the country's economy.
"Until you finally enact meaningful health care reform, in which we don't bow down before a private health insurance industry whose main mission is not the provision of health care but the maximization of investor return ... we're missing a golden opportunity to make a big step forward," Gill said.