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Underwood delivers Dem weekly address on Obamacare 9th anniversary

Lauren Underwood

Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., at her first Congressional hearing, a meeting of the Education and Labor Committee. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON – With the 9th anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law on Saturday, freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., who made health care a centerpiece of her campaign, will deliver the Democratic weekly address.

Former President Barack Obama pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress on March 23, 2010, and it has been under attack from Republicans ever since.

President Donald Trump, to his enormous frustration, has been unsuccessful in his quest to repeal and replace Obamacare; still, he has been able to weaken aspects of the program, created to make health insurance available to everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions.

“Trump is continuing to try to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and cynically working to drive up health costs for families across America,” said Underwood in her address, which was taped in Chicago.

“To me, this fight is personal. As a nurse I am determined to help everyone in my community access the resources they need to live healthy lives. I couldn’t sit around and do nothing. So I ran for office. And I won. And now I’m speaking to you today as a leader in a strong, diverse class that has come to Washington to get to work for the people.”

Some members of the large, diverse Democratic freshmen class – and a few 2020 Dem presidential contenders – have been calling for another change – having Congress create a “Medicare for all” system. That phrase has become shorthand for a national health insurance system – with different meanings depending on who is doing the talking.

Underwood, who represents the 14th congressional district, turf hugging the Chicago suburbs, has not signed on to any of the “Medicare for all” proposals.

She told the Sun-Times on Friday, “it’s great in 2019 (that) we have a national conversation on what out health care system should look like” and how to provide more people with affordable coverage.

Underwood added, the “Medicare for all” prospect “is electrifying for some and an opportunity for people to engage in debate and discussion about what we want our health care system to look like. But I do think there are some things we need to know, and for me, one of those is – and it’s very important – [is] its cost … how much does something like this cost and how do we pay for it. And that has not been part of the discussion to date.”

After Obamacare became law, Underwood worked on implementing the new plan while a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Obamacare is not perfect; that’s no secret.

“There are a number of people in this country who have not been well served by our current system and who are interested in walking away from it,” Underwood said. They “want something different.”

The discussion about improving health insurance coverage for the nation, however, does not have to be you’re either for Obamacare or for “Medicare for all.”

Said Underwood, “I reject the binary framework.”

Obama meeting with Dem freshmen

Underwood is one of eight new lawmakers who worked in Obama’s administration or campaigns. He’s meeting with the large class of freshmen Dems on Monday night.