Durbin, Duckworth to Rauner: ‘Stand up’ against Obamacare repeal

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Then U.S. Senate candidate for Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, left, during lunch with then Democratic candidate for Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, center, and Sen. Dick Durbin, right, at Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen on Nov. 8, 2016. File Photo. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth on Tuesday sent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner a letter urging him to “stand up” for Illinois residents and oppose the likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The letter says the process of repealing the act without enacting a replacement plan “threatens to disrupt our entire healthcare system — subjecting patients, providers, hospitals and insurers to chaos.” The senators write that 1.2 million fewer Illinois residents would have health insurance in 2019 with a complete repeal without a replacement. It also cites Illinois Health and Hospital Association figures that estimate that Illinois could lose $11.6 billion to $13.1 billion annually, translating to the potential loss of 84,000 to 95,000 jobs.

“As Governor of our state, we seek your input on how to improve our health care system and urge you to stand on the side of Illinoisans in opposing any action that would reduce coverage, increases costs, reduce the quality of health care, burden our providers or harm our state’s economy,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote in the letter to the governor.

President Donald Trump on Day One of his presidency signed an executive order “to seek the prompt repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. That order doesn’t change the law, but it directed agencies to interpret its regulations. At the same time, congressional Republicans are working to repeal major sections of the act, but there is no complete plan in place on how to replace Obamacare.

Rauner has said publicly that he doesn’t support a repeal of Obamacare without a replacement. He’s also said turning Medicaid into a block grant program wouldn’t be a good plan for Illinois.

Durbin on Monday told the Sun-Times that governors across the country should be standing up against a repeal.

“Governors like [John] Kasich of Ohio are stepping up and saying eliminating Medicaid coverage is a disaster because that is compensation for providers that will go away. What we do know from the Illinois Hospital Association is that many downstate hospitals will be threatened if they lose this Medicaid infusion,” Durbin said. “We also know that when these hospitals in downstate communities start facing closure or they’re going to restrict construction and lay off people with the best paying jobs in town. So it is a devastating impact.”

In a statement regarding the senators’ letter, the Rauner administration on Tuesday noted Durbin was a lead proponent of Obamacare, which they said “resulted in skyrocketing health care costs on millions of Americans.”

“As Senators Durbin and Duckworth well know, our administration has urged Congress to take a thoughtful approach to any new health care changes,” spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “As always, the governor will continue to advocate for the best interests of the people of Illinois.”

The senators’ letter also criticized a Rauner administration response to House Republicans earlier this month, saying it failed to provide information about the potential fallout or benefit from appealing the act.

The Rauner administration on Jan. 17 wrote a letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the heads of three House committees, urging them to “provide certainty and stability for health insurance providers and their enrollees in the current plan year and in the future.” But it notes the flaws to the system, stating that Illinois premiums for plans on the exchange have increased 45 percent on average and that people in seven counties have only one choice of insurer on the exchange.

“Through the failures of the ACA, consumers in particular have faced enough hardships; please ensure that these are not compounded through hasty and/or incomplete action,” wrote Jennifer Hammer, acting director of the state’s Department of Insurance.

Hammer wrote that there are big concerns about the welfare of the 3.2 million on the state’s expanded Medicaid program, and she urges them to “carefully consider the ramifications of proposed changes.”

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