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ELECTIONS 2018 Underwood speaks on protecting healthcare access
by Matt Simonette

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Ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Windy City Times is running interviews with several candidates who are vying for various seats throughout the state.

Registered nurse Lauren Underwood, a Naperville native, is challenging the incumbency of the 14th district's longtime representative, Randy Hultgren.

Like many congressional challengers in the upcoming elections, healthcare is central to Underwood's platform. Much of that concern stems from professional experience—Underwood was appointed by former President Barack Obama as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as preparations and safeguards against emergency health threats.

Windy City Times: What prompted you to throw your hat in the ring?

Lauren Underwood: I found myself at my representative's one and only public event in 2017.

He made a promise—that he would only support a version of Obamacare repeal that let people with pre-existing conditions keep their healthcare coverage. That kind of promise is very important to me because, as a nurse, I take care of patients who are relying on their healthcare. Working on the Affordable Care Act as a law, I knew how it worked and knew we could fix it so it worked better. You don't have to throw the whole thing away.

Also, like so many Americans, I have a pre-existing condition myself. It's a heart condition, and well-controlled, but without that law, I wouldn't be able to get coverage. Randy Hultgren made that promise, then he went from the American Healthcare Act to the version of the repeal that made it cost-prohibitive for people like me to get insurance coverage. I believe representatives should be transparent and accessible to the community about their votes. They have to know that they are accountable to us. He doesn't seem to recognize that, so I decided to run and launched the campaign last year in August.

WCT: What would you do to ensure that you would be better accountable and transparent?

LU: We've been having a lot of conversations about that. I really admire representatives like Seth Moulton ( D-Massachusetts ), who has a blog that outlines votes that are coming up, why he votes how he does, and if it passes. [The entries] are about two paragraphs long, are in plain English, and really breaks it down. The whole idea that the people don't know what their representative is doing is just unacceptable. A lot of times, the representatives don't know what they're voting for, and that's just wrong. … Our communication is going to be bi-directional, and I'm really looking forward to carrying that kind of strategy forward.

My goal is to try to be as accessible in office as I am campaigning. We're trying to be everywhere all the time in the 14th.

WCT: Speak about work that you have done for or with the LGBT community.

LU: Locally, we've been really fortunate to have a lot of members of the LGBTQ community join our campaign and volunteer—and some have very senior roles in the campaign—and I've had the opportunity to learn from the community firsthand about local issues. During my time in the administration, obviously, we worked on the Affordable Care Act's anti-discrimination provisions, including Section 1557 of the ACA, which I worked on. I have a pretty strong commitment to equality, so I'm grateful to have the support of the Human Rights Campaign.

WCT: What do you think are some of the most pertinent issue for LGBT residents of the district right now?

LU: I think the most pertinent issues are the pretty similar to what we've already discussed, like having access to high-quality healthcare. That's critical for anybody. But we know that LGBT youth are at high-risk for drug abuse, sexually-transmitted diseases, being bullied, isolation and anxiety. The suicide risk is more apparent than in the general population. There is a real barrier to accessing care for that, given stigma and discrimination in the healthcare system. There's sometimes a real insensitivity there to the LGBT community. It's important that everybody has access to high-quality healthcare.

See .

See more Windy City Times 2018 candidate interviews and election coverage at .

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