Sen. Dick Durbin movingly described his sick child’s preexisting condition as a reason to support Obamacare last week, but the Illinois Democrat neglected to mention that his late daughter was easily covered by existing insurance, and that he used taxpayer money to reward the hospital that treated her.
Despite her preexisting condition, Christine Durbin, who suffered from a lifelong heart condition and died at age 40 in 2008, was eligible for coverage under existing laws in multiple states, including the senator’s state and the state she ultimately settled in.
Durbin also neglected to mention that he sent his daughter to one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, to which he earmarked millions of dollars from 2002-2010.
“I’ve had a situation in my family — a child — who had serious physical problems, who could not have qualified but for group health insurance available to me as a member of Congress,” Durbin said in response to a pointed question to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“If I had gone on the open market to buy a policy I’m not sure I could have bought one for my family to cover my child,” said Durbin, who was first elected to Congress in 1982 when his Christine was fourteen.
In fact, Durbin wasn’t sure about buying a policy on the open market because he never had to, having been a state employee from 1969 to 1982 and a federal employee from 1982 to now. His daughter, Christine, who was born in 1968, never went without the cushy government benefits offered to government workers and their families.
State law also addressed the problem of individuals in the open market suffering from preexisting conditions. In 1987, Illinois passed the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (CHIP, which covered any Illinoisan who could not “obtain individual coverage from private insurance companies because of medical conditions.” Thirty-five other states have similar programs, including Maryland, where Christine ultimately settled.
Durbin also sent his daughter to the very expensive Children’s Memorial Hospital for care. Durbin was able to pay Children’s Memorial Hospital back with U.S. taxpayers’ money, giving the hospital over $650,000 in just one earmark in 2002.
“This new state of the art facility will enhance Children’s Hospital’s reputation as one of America’s best pediatric hospitals,” Durbin told the Chicago Tribune in 2012, at the opening of a new 23-story building.
Managed by the politically-connected Crown family, Children’s Memorial Hospital is one of the hospitals that has received the most federal earmarks of any hospital in the country, having received millions from Durbin and then-Sen. Barack Obama.
In 2009, Durbin, sent two earmarks, one $951,000 and another for $500,000, to the children’s hospital. In 2010, he sent another two earmarks, totaling $1,000,000.
Durbin worked to save federal funding for the hospital and other Chicago-area hospitals from Clinton-backed Medicaid cuts in 2000. He also fought federal cuts to Children’s Memorial Hospital’s budget in 1995 despite then representing Springfield, Il. in Congress. The hospital has seen its share of politics: Gov. Rod Blagojevich once threatened to withhold an earmark of $8 million if he didn’t receive a $50,000 donation from a Children’s Memorial Hospital executive.
When Christine was 24, she began working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., which also had cushy government benefits. She worked there for sixteen years before dying from an unspecified congenital heart problem. Most insurance plans cover congenital heart problems, albeit at an elevated rate.
Durbin’s office did not return a request for comment on how the senator could have known which policies he could have bought on the open market given his longtime status as a government employee and the heart condition his daughter suffered from.
Durbin opposes the Vitter Amendment, which would force some federal employees, including members of Congress, onto the Obamacare exchanges.
“Senator Durbin wants to force Obamacare on average citizens while he wants a taxpayer-subsidized deluxe health plan for Congress. That hypocrisy explains why he goes to such lengths to change the subject. If Obamacare is so great, why do Mr. Durbin and other senators want to be exempted from the plan they want to impose on the public?” Ken Boehm of the ethics watchdog group, National Legal and Policy Center, told The Daily Caller.