Durbin: Trump ‘sabotaging’ ACA, bipartisanship needed


U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, left, and State Senate candidate Shelia Simon laugh during a Simon campaign stop at Morris Library in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

President Donald Trump has been “sabotaging” the Affordable Care Act and further erosion of the law will increase health insurance premiums, the number of uninsured and the federal deficit, Illinois’ senior senator said Wednesday.

“We have to keep the system operating” as Congress works to improve the ACA, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, told The Pantagraph following an appearance at Chestnut Health Systems’ Lighthouse Institute in Bloomington.

“We’ve got to keep the oxygen flowing or the patient will die,” Durbin said.


Trump has issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to not enforce the ACA, reduced the 2018 open enrollment period and canceled advertisements and outreach that help people sign up for insurance, Durbin said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said if Trump orders the end of cost-sharing reduction payments — payments that make premiums more affordable for 156,000 Illinoisans — premiums will increase by 20 percent, insurance companies will leave the marketplace, 1 million more Americans will be uninsured in 2018 and the federal budget deficit will increase by $194 billion over 10 years.

Responding to Republican criticism that the ACA adds to the federal deficit, Durbin said CBO scoring has disputed that.

“We are not adding to the deficit,” Durbin said.

It’s “critical” to have health insurance in 21st century America, he said.

Congress is starting to have a bipartisan conversation about how to improve the ACA, Durbin said. “I think we can come up with something,” he said.

One needed improvement is addressing insurance premiums that have increased too quickly for a small percentage of the population, Durbin said. “We’ve got to find new ways to expand risk so premiums don’t skyrocket,” he said.


The increasing costs of prescription drugs also must be addressed, he said.

Durbin spoke earlier at Chestnut because Chestnut Family Health Center, 720 W. Chestnut St., Bloomington, is a federally qualified health center that receives federal money because of ACA.

The growing family health center — the medical home for people who don’t have a family doctor — is geared to low-income people on Medicaid or without insurance.

Since the clinic opened in 2012, it has provided services to 6,006 patients, including 1,468 during the first seven months of this year, said Dr. Victoria Brockhouse, family health center medical director. Chestnut also has assisted 1,193 individuals in determining eligibility for either expanded Medicaid or insurance on the marketplace under the ACA.

About 77 percent of the patients have medical and substance use disorders or mental illness. Chestnut addresses medical, mental health and substance use disorders.

“We must come together and improve our health care system so that our great community health centers, like Chestnut, can do what they do best — provide the right care at the right time to those in need,” Durbin said.


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