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Sen. Durbin Urges Caution On ACA Changes

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said he sees shifting rhetoric by Congressional Republicans that gives him hope the Affordable Care Act will not just be simply repealed.

Durbin said during a stop at the McLean County Museum Of History Route 66 Visitors' Center that a repeal would be disastrous for both the stability of the insurance marketplace and for medical providers."And the downstate hospitals will be the first casualties of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It stands to reason. Many of them are hanging on. They are not large hospitals. And if they lose Medicaid reimbursement, that means more charity cases, and less opportunity for them to serve," said Durbin.

The Illinois Democrat said he has seen Republicans change tunes from 'repeal' to 'repeal and replace' to 'change' as they refer to Obamacare. He acknowledged there are problems with the law that have caused some insurance providers to exit the marketplace. He said the penalties for not signing up need to be higher to preserve a viable insurance risk pool and to make sure more people are covered.

One of the big hopes for bi-partisanship in the new administration is an infrastructure program to repair and replace the nation's aging roads, highways, bridges, and mass transit systems.

Democrats and Republicans have agreed for the last six years that a gas tax alone will not allow the U.S. to make significant progress on a package. During the Obama administration, Republicans had demanded a package dedicated revenue sources to pay for the projects. Consensus eluded Congress.

Senator Durbin said he's not sure how the nation can pay for the projects when the GOP is also contemplating tax cuts that will reduce government revenue.

"I don't know the answer. We're waiting for President Trump's proposal. Some people have said public private partnerships. Those will take you to some extent to toll ways and things like that. But other things, bridge repair, mass transit and others, not likely to be done on a public private basis," said Durbin.

Republicans have said they are pleased with the provisions for public private partnerships in a waterways improvement law passed and signed a couple years ago. They point to that as a model for a larger infrastructure bill.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.