With one exception, candidates for the three metro-east congressional seats at stake in the Nov. 6 election hewed to their party lines on whether to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon 244-185 to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the massive health care reform two weeks ago. The law is a keystone of President Barack Obama's first term in office.
The House vote was the 31st time the House has voted to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Previous repeal efforts withered and died when they were sent over to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate.
As they have over the past two years, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, voted for repeal, while U.S. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, voted against repeal.
Democratic nominees Bill Enyart, running for the 12th U.S. House District seat, and Dr. David Gill, running in the 13th House District, both said they would vote against repeal if elected to Congress.
The GOP-led vote showed that "Congress is more interested in political games rather than getting our economy back on track and getting people back work," Enyart said in a post-vote statement. "Right now everyone I talk to wants good jobs and financial security for their families. How does this charade help solve any of those problems?"
Meanwhile, Republican nominees Jason Plummer, in the 12th House District, and Rodney Davis, in the 13th House District, have said they would vote for repeal.
The exception is Democratic nominee Angela Michael. Bucking her own party, Michael, running in the newly created 15th House District against incumbent Shimkus, said she would vote for repeal.
"I just don't think the government needs to be dictating our health care," said Michael, an outspoken foe of abortion rights. "We should be able to make those decisions ourselves."
Before Wednesday's vote, Gill slammed the GOP repeal effort as playing "with the health of millions of their constituents," according to a statement Gill released. "Let's see members of Congress who support repeal of the health care law vote first to repeal their own taxpayer-funded, gold-plated health care coverage."
Paula Bradshaw, the Green Party nominee for the 12th District seat, said she would vote for repeal on the grounds the health reform law does not provide single-payer coverage for the estimated 50 million Americans who lack health care insurance.
"The Green Party's for single-payer health care. Medicare expanded for all," said Bradshaw, an emergency room nurse for a Carbondale hospital. "This system is not a step in the right direction ... this is forcing people to buy private health insurance to pay for a for-profit health system that is not working."
Plummer and Davis would replace the Affordable Care Act with a wide range of reforms to both America's legal and health delivery systems.
Plummer said he wishes to see Congress enact reforms in tort law to deter medical malpractice lawsuits.
In a written statement, Plummer said that he wants to repeal "Obamacare because I am going to Washington to focus on reducing the cost, improving the quality, and increasing access to health care for all Americans," Plummer said. "The president's irresponsible legislation did not address any of these serious issues with the health care system."
Davis said he would like to see the Affordable Care Act replaced by "a market-based system that's going to make sure that we don't go down the pathway to ceding control where and when to seek medical treatment to faceless bureaucrats."
To cut health care costs, more federally authorized community health centers should be set up to provide primary care to the un- and under-insured, Davis said.
"It keeps them out of the high-cost emergency rooms," Davis said.
In addition, Davis would like to see Congress pass laws to allow health insurance be sold across state lines, as well as dramatically expand health savings accounts for consumers and make them tax-deductible.
"The key is to get a very cost-effective system that's going to be very responsive to families," Davis said.
Shimkus voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and voted for repeal Wednesday afternoon, partly on grounds that the law -- which critics have called "Obamacare" -- imposes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and cuts in Medicare spending.
Like Davis, Shimkus said he would like to see Congress replace the Affordable Care Act with laws to expand the availability of individual health savings accounts, as well state-authorized exchanges to provide catastrophic health coverage for consumers.
"Imagine someone who takes out a health insurance plan at 22," Shimkus said. "They do a health savings account, they are able to roll over the savings and keep increasing the catastrophic number ... imagine how low their catastrophic care costs would be."
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2533.