Although he's repeatedly spoken in favor of reforming the U.S. health care system, Rep. Brad Schneider doesn't back the proposals for government-run insurance being promoted by Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
Creating a Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private health insurance coverage isn't the way to make health care affordable for all Americans, Schneider told Daily Herald editors and reporters at the newspaper's Arlington Heights headquarters this week.
The Deerfield Democrat's repudiation of the health care concepts being pushed by Sanders and more recently Warren came weeks after Schneider's reelection campaign filed a federal financial disclosure report showing more donations from companies tied to health care than from any other industry during the year's third quarter.
In a follow-up email, Schneider said his votes are based on what's good for residents in Illinois' 10th District, not campaign donations.
Warren's Medicare for All proposal -- which calls for more than $20 trillion in federal spending over the next decade -- has been under the national microscope lately. Schneider said the Massachusetts senator's plan wouldn't ease rising annual per-person spending on medical services, a chief concern for him.
"We need to bring down the cost of care," Schneider said. "And Medicare for All still maintains the fee-for-service model that continues to allow for that drive-up in costs."
Schneider doesn't want to force Americans to use a government health plan, either. Over 67% of Americans had private health insurance as of 2018, according to census data.
"To say we're going to take it away and rip it off like a Band-Aid I think may be a bridge too far," Schneider said.
Instead, Schneider has supported legislation that would create government insurance options without eliminating private coverage. The resulting competition would drive down costs and put the focus on patients and their needs, he's said.
Schneider sits on the Ways and Means committee, Congress' chief tax-writing panel. Within that group, he serves on subcommittees focused on health and Social Security, and he said health-related legislation has been a "primary focus" in recent months.
Not surprisingly, health care companies and organizations are interested in Schneider's stances on issues affecting them -- and many have backed that interest with cash.
From July 1 to Sept. 30, Team Schneider received more than 40 donations totaling nearly $80,000 from political action committees representing insurance companies, retailers with pharmacy services, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers, medical professionals and other companies or organizations in the health care field, according to financial disclosure reports viewable at the Federal Election Commission website, fec.gov.
Asked about those donations and the donors' possible influence on his political stances, Schneider said his votes on health care and every issue "are based on what I believe is in the best interest of constituents of the 10th District."
"My record backs this up," Schneider said, adding that some of the legislation he's supported, including plans for a competitive government insurance option, have faced "strong opposition" from some health care industry groups.
Schneider also has co-sponsored legislation that would allow Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 to buy into Medicare. A bill that would allow the government to negotiate lower prescription prices and would cap Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket spending on prescriptions at $2,000 has Schneider's backing, too.
"We pay four to seven times what other countries pay for the same medicines. We're subsidizing the rest of the world," Schneider said. "We've got to bring more fairness (to drug prices)."
Additionally, Schneider supports providing government subsidies to help poor people afford health insurance premiums.
"Everyone has a responsibility for a portion of their health care, but it should never be so much that it is impossible for them to afford a home or educate their kids," Schneider said. "No one should face bankruptcy because of a diagnosis."