U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos hosts health care town hall after repeal bill pulled

This article originally appeared in the Rockford Register-Star. 

ROCKFORD — Alisha Levine was at the hospital Friday afternoon awaiting surgery related to a recent miscarriage when U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act had been pulled.

The Rockford family’s medical issues don’t begin — nor will they end — with her hospital visit, she said at a health care town hall meeting hosted today by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline.

Her 8-year-old son Tyler has been undergoing cancer treatment for more than two years. With treatment and surgeries, the family has racked up $1.5 million in medical bills.

But it would have been far worse, and still could be, Levine said, without the recently imperiled Affordable Care Act. The family, she said, would have experienced “multiple times the cost and concern” without the insurance coverage the federal law provides.

“It’s not perfect,” Levine said, “but the benefits and guarantees that it provides people like my son and millions of other people … far outweigh any of the negatives.”

Levine was one of about a dozen people who spoke at the meeting. All of them seemed to be supporters of the act, also known as “Obamacare.” Some questioned Bustos, whose district includes parts of Rockford.

The event came a day after Ryan and the Trump administration, fearing defeat, decided not to call a House vote on the American Health Care Act, which would have repealed key provisions of Obamacare. Republicans contend the current law is irreparably broken, resulting in escalating insurance costs for millions of Americans.

Bustos, however, said the failure of the GOP bill should be celebrated.

“It really was a momentous day, and I would say a massive victory for the American public,” she said before the event.

Bustos said repealing the Affordable Care Act would have been “so harmful” to 24 million Americans who would not have coverage under the Republican plan. Illinois, she added, “would have lost 60,000 health care jobs in our hospitals and our health clinics.”

“People would have paid more and gotten less, and because of activists and people calling their members of Congress, the bill went down in massive defeat,” she said.

Levine was among those relieved when the political drama ended Friday.

“It was not ideal,” she said of the Republican bill. “There was not much to like about it, from everything I heard about it.”

About 10 people asked questions covering a variety of health care-related topics, such as bipartisan collaboration on future legislation and what happens if the Affordable Care Act is eventually repealed.

Lorie Langan, of Rockford, was glad she attended.

“It was really great,” she said. “There were so many questions with all that’s gone on this week.”

Michael Born, chief medical officer for SwedishAmerican Health System, spoke at the beginning of the event. He said Obamacare is “far and away” better than what the replacement would have been.

The town hall, he said, was an informative contribution to the local discussion of health care.

“There were great questions, a great exchange of information,” Born said. “One of the highlights was some of the information that the congresswoman shared for possible bipartisan work as we look at how to deliver health care to citizens.”