Over the last two weeks, Republicans have faced a growing town hall backlash over their votes to cut taxes on the rich, to end Medicare as we know it, to extend billions in subsidies to oil companies, and to reduce the corporate tax rate. Now, a freshman Republican is feeling the heat over his vote to repeal health reform and reinstate so-called preexisting conditions discrimination.
Last week at a town hall in Sycamore, IL, a constituent relayed a story to Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) about his daughter, who has suffered because insurance companies refuse to extend coverage to her because of her medical history. Hultgren claimed such discrimination is a problem that must be addressed. However, he was challenged by another constituent who accurately noted that Hultgren voted to repeal the entire health reform law, which means that he repealed protections against preexisting condition screening.
Hultgren then made two startling claims. First, he said the Senate will not approve the House GOP-passed repeal bill, so his vote meant nothing. Second, Hultgren erroneously claimed that he voted to fix preexisting conditions discrimination “the very next day” after his repeal vote. In reality, Hultgren and his party never proposed a “replacement” bill after voting to repeal health reform:
CONSTITUENT 1: One more thing about healthcare. I’ve got a daughter and she had a baby about four months ago. She decided that she loves being a mother so much to resign from her position as a teacher. Guess what? She can’t get insurance because she has a preexisting illness. She’s been cancer-free for fifteen years but the cancer also brought on diabetes because it damaged her pancreas. Preexisting illness and the insurance companies tell her to take a hike. [...]
HULTGREN: Well as you think — it’s one of those things, we’re a compassionate nation, we need to take care of people with preexisting conditions. The lady talked about that as well. We can do that. I agree with you too, we’re America, we can figure this out. [...] But then for those who are truly uninsurable with preexisting conditions, we’ve got to have a system in place and I know we can figure that out.
CONSTITUENT 1: This healthcare system if it finally gets adopted, something about if you have a preexisting illness, you can not be turned down for health insurance. That’s what I want.
CONSTITUENT 2: That was passed! He voted to repeal it.
HULTGREN: [...] You know what, some part of the bill. I think this is part of it that’s going to stay, the Senate’s not going to pass repeal.
CONSTITUENT 2: So why did you vote for it?
HULTGREN: Because the immediate next vote was, now let’s fix it. Let’s go in and fix it [...]
CONSTITUENT 2: Which bill was that, which bill was that that you voted for to fix it?
HULTGREN: The very next day.
CONSTITUENT 2: What’s the bill number?
HULTGREN: I’ll get it to you.
It seems doubtful if Hultgren ever followed up with the constituent asking for the bill number for legislation to replace health reform. That is because no such legislation exists, and the Republicans have done nothing so far to come up with an alternative. Last year during the election, Republicans campaigned aggressively on a platform of “repeal and replace.” Once in office, they have only done the former.