PEORIA — U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth slammed the decision by President Donald Trump to halt payments for subsidies that help lower-income Americans afford coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
"All it does is hurt everyday Americans," the freshman Democrat said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "I don't understand why you would put the opinion of Breitbart News over the lives of very real Americans in places like Peoria."
County-by-county data compiled by The Associated Press shows that some 3,669 residents in the Peoria area received the subsidies in 2017, totaling some $4.1 million.
She also raised the possibility that ending the subsidies will ultimately put more low-income people in precarious financial situations.
"It boggles the mind that we would do this," Duckworth said. "It brings us back to a place and time where 80 percent of the bankruptcies in America were because of health care costs."
Duckworth also suggested that without insurance, more of those people are likely to resort to emergency room care, and that if the ACA folds it could be destructive particularly for hospitals in rural areas, driving out doctors and nurses who work in smaller communities.
"It's hard to get those folks to come back (if hospitals close or reduce staff)," she said.
The Hoffman Estates lawmaker maintained she's open to fixing some of the problems with the seven-year-old law — pointing in particular to her vote to end the "medical device tax" — and expressed hope that bipartisan negotiations between Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray would bear fruit.
"I really hope that when I go back to D.C. on Monday, I get the good news that they're back at the negotiating table, but I really don't know how we get there with everything the president has done the last couple days to undermine the negotiating process," she said.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.