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Leadership Should Work To Bring People Together, Ron Kind Says

Kind Is Facing Van Orden In Race For 3rd Congressional District

U.S. Representative Ron Kind
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat hoping to hold onto his seat as representative in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, said legislators need to acknowledge what’s working with the Affordable Care Act, fix what isn’t and ensure that all Americans are getting access to better health care.

His comments in support of Obamacare came during a conversation on “Central Time” with Kealey Bultena, who asked whether Kind sees value in getting government out of health care, as his Republican opponent, Derrick Van Orden, has called for.

Kind has held his position in Congress since 1997. The district covers La Crosse, Eau Claire, and much of western Wisconsin. He faces Orden in the Nov. 3 election.

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This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Kealey Bultena: Let’s start right at this idea about law enforcement interacting with Black Americans in recent months, especially after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. How do you think lawmakers can work to restore trust between communities of color and police forces?

RK: Now is the time for leadership to bring people together, to strengthen trust in law enforcement, but also to show respect to everyone who deserves it. And there’s work to be done on that front.

I’m a former special prosecutor here in western Wisconsin. I have a younger brother who’s been a police officer for 24 years. We need them to be successful in protecting lives in our community. But we also need a law enforcement force that’s respectful of all people, regardless of background, color and creed. And there’s more work to be done on that front.

It is important that we get the community’s trust up for law enforcement.

KB: COVID-19 is absolutely raging. This week, we’ve set records with deaths and hospitalizations. How do you plan to work to curb the virus’s spread in our state and your district?

RK: Well, this is an all hands on deck moment, and we all have a responsibility to each other to keep each other safe. We are literally only as healthy as the closest person next to us with this global pandemic. Now is the time for us to depoliticize this situation, follow the best medical and scientific guidance that’s available based on the research that has already been done and exercise some responsibility to one another.

And clearly, the direction is heading in the wrong way in Wisconsin with high positivity rate again, high hospitalization rate.

I’ve done a public service announcement telling people we know what we have to do to protect each other. Wash our hands a lot. Practice proper social distancing. And please wear a face mask.

It’s not a red issue. This isn’t a blue issue. It’s a red, white and blue issue. By working together, we can defeat this virus and emerge even stronger. But clearly, we’ve let our guard down and it is spreading at dangerous levels and there’s work to be done.

KB: Let’s talk about the Affordable Care Act. Derrick Van Orden, who is also running to represent the 3rd Congressional District, opposes the Affordable Care Act. You voted to pass Obamacare. What do you plan to do to uphold that sweeping health care reform?

RK: Well, unfortunately, President Trump and the Republican Party are doing everything they can to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they succeed before the Supreme Court in oral arguments, which are going to be had in about one month here, people with preexisting conditions will no longer be protected in our health care system. They can be denied coverage. They can be charged extra.

Also in the act is a prohibition against annual and lifetime payment limits that insurance companies used to practice before passage of the Affordable Care Act. That means if you contract cancer, as my son did last year, you could blow through that annual or lifetime limits in a heartbeat. And that’s not right.

I’m just wondering what my opponent opposes under the Affordable Care Act and what his alternative would be. If this is completely repealed, it would result in chaos. Millions of Americans would lose their health care coverage overnight and the patient protections would disappear. And I don’t believe most Wisconsinites want to see that happen.

But there is room for improvement. And I’ve been the leading voice to change the way we pay for health care so it’s based on the value or the outcome of care that’s given so we can get better care at a much better price, because I think we can all acknowledge that health care is still way too expensive in our country.

KB: Wisconsin’s economy has shrunk by nearly a third in the second quarter this year compared to the first. How do you plan to help the businesses in Wisconsin bounce back?

RK: We do need another COVID-19 package. It should be bipartisan. I didn’t believe that when we passed the CARES Act earlier in the year that this virus would be over by September or October. Clearly, it’s not done with us yet.

Small businesses are suffering. We should have a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program and idle grants that I was supportive of.

And this recession that we’re in right now doesn’t have to last as long, be as deep and be as damaging as long as we’re willing to continue to take short-term measures to support businesses, support families, support our family farmers, and buy some time until we can develop a safe and effective vaccine and start inoculating people.