By Joe Kaiser -
WASHINGTON - Diane Iser, an 11-year breast cancer survivor from Hoffman Estates, listened attentively to President Barack Obama discuss the Affordable Care Act while at the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
“That’s what health insurance reform is all about,” the president said after telling an anecdotal story of someone recently covered by the ACA, “the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything."
But Iser was in Washington D.C. Tuesday representing a different perspective on Obamacare. The president's comments touting Obamacare outraged her. "It was a sales pitch," she told Illinois Review.
A guest of Republican Rep. Peter Roskam (IL-06), Iser shared her story of losing healthcare coverage under the new law, and she is unsure as to whether she will be able to afford her doctors by the end of this year. While she has a bridge plan right now, Iser said she is already getting notices of increasing costs.
“(Americans) have been leveraged,” Iser said. “We were self sustaining, we had our policies, we could afford them and right now we’re looking at a situation where I am wondering how I am going to keep the doctors that saved my life at the end of this year because of the rising costs.”
Iser said under the plan she was forced to buy, she will have a 30 percent increase on her deductible and a 50 percent increase on her premium.
In December, the Associated Press reported that 185,340 Illinoisans were notified their health policies were cancelled.
“More important is the fact that we have a president and people who supported this law that are unwilling to hear the unaffordability and how it is affecting - so far six million [people] - which I’m sure with many more to come by the end of this year,” she added.
Roskam first heard Iser's story during a telephone townhall the Congressman had with his constituents. The two became acquainted, and Roskam later extended the invitation for Iser to be his guest at the State of the Union.
“Anytime that you can have a person who is affected by a federal policy articulate the impact, opponents cannot argue with it,” Roskam said. “They cannot dismiss Diane as a fiction of some imagination, or as some statistic or as an aberration. No, this is somebody who is experiencing what they said would never happen and yet she’s experiencing this. She’s giving voice to something that is happening to literally millions of Americans.”
Looking back at the promises Obama and the other Democrats made about Americans being able to keep their plans, Iser said she is very disappointed. Both she and Roskam hoped the president would address this and other mistakes with the law in Tuesday’s address. That is, of course, not what they heard.
Iser said she was left “insulted and outraged” by Obama’s touting of his signature law, which she called a “sales pitch.” In that “pitch,” the president added a challenge to Republicans to develop a better plan to cut costs, opposed to just offering repeals of the current law.
Roskam, though, said he believes the president was only targeting the Democrats in the House in order to convince them not to join Republicans against the ACA. He pointed to the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, a bill introduced Jan. 16 to force the administration to release weekly reports on the ACA’s performance, as proof. The bill, which passed 259-154, grabbed 33 Democrat votes, including fellow in-state yea votes from Brad Schneider (IL-10) and Cheri Bustos (IL-17).
“The president is trying to divide up a shrinking economic pie,” Roskam said. “And rather than trying to think through how is it that you create an economy that grows and expands for everybody and creates more opportunity, and more growth and more wages, he’s saying ‘well, the reason that you’re stuck is because of somebody else,’ and I think it's terribly small thinking, and that sort of small thinking has a negative impact on the lives of real people.“
“And Diane is a perfect example of that,” Roskam continued. “She was minding her own business and then boom, the federal government decides it has a wonderful plan for her life. It’s a plan that she didn’t like and it’s a plan clearly that she’s going to do her best to rewrite even though she’s fighting the federal government all the way.”
While Iser was insulted and outraged with what she heard from the president on health care, she said there were still tremendous positives from her trip with Roskam. In fact, making the trip to D.C. motivated her.
“I’m going to continue to raise my voice and the voices of six million other people until we are heard,” Iser said. “I’m outraged and insulted, but this is what America is all about – (the president) has motivated me to keep my voice going.”
“And for that, I thank him.”