Montgomery mayor hosts health care forum ahead of 14th District run

Montgomery Mayor Matt Brolley didn’t delve too deep into his own views on how to fix the U.S. health care system Thursday night. Instead, he listened to the concerns and suggestions of the 14th Congressional District constituents he wants to lure to his name in next year’s Democratic primary.

Brolley started the forum by describing it as “the town hall that Randy Hultgren won’t have.” Brolley attacked Hultgren’s vote in May to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and replace it with a Republican plan known as the American Care Act.

“A few months ago, Randy Hultgren probably took one of the worst votes he’s taken,” Brolley said. “He’s not voting in any of our best interests. If that wasn’t clear before, now it is after his vote on the health care bill.”

At the time of that vote, Hultgren explained his support for the Republican plan as a step toward a better solution than the “status quo under a failing law.”

Hultgren pointed to three of the seven counties in the district now having only one insurance carrier participating in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. He also noted premium increases of up to 77.3 percent for some constituents in 2017.

“It hurts families, weakens the quality and accessibility of health care and drives up costs that Americans simply cannot afford,” writes Hultgren on the health care issues section of his website.

The 25 people who attended Brolley’s gathering at a Panera Bread in Yorkville didn’t seem swayed by the explanations Hultgren’s offered so far. They blamed the profit margins of hospitals and insurance companies and health care company CEO salaries as the main culprits driving up their medical costs.

Brolley sympathized. He called health care “a right as an American citizen.” He spoke about working with moderate Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act by uniting around the principle of lowering health care costs as a win-win for everyone. He tossed out ideas like gradually lowering the age to qualify for Medicare or creating a Medicare buy-in program. He solicited views on extending the patent expiration dates on prescription drugs to lower drug prices. And he expressed support for the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

“That’s the only way this thing works unless the government takes over,” Brolley said. “But none of these changes are possible unless we push people like Randy out of office.”

Also seeking the Democratic nomination are Jim Walz, who lost to Hultgren last year; Victor Swanson, a high school teacher and Batavia resident; George Weber, a retired chemical engineer; and Lauren Underwood, a nurse from Naperville.

There will be a 14th Congressional District candidate forum at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10, at the St. Charles Congregational United Church of Christ.

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