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Georgia Democrat dramatizes message on health care — by giving up her own

Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- A Georgia Democrat in one of the most competitive House districts in the country is canceling her health insurance, a risky move that she says is financially necessary as she runs for Congress.

Nabilah Islam is one of a handful of Democrats running for the party's nomination in the open 7th District. Islam is trying to save money, but she's also making a political point -- about who can afford to run for Congress and the necessity of fixing America's health care system.

"Running for Congress is cost prohibitive," Islam told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday.

With voters continuing to rank health care a top priority, it may be a politically expedient decision too, especially for a candidate who's been outraised in her primary and is trying to drum up attention. Islam, the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, spoke publicly about her decision in a video she posted to Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

GOP Rep. Rob Woodall, who held on in a recount last fall with the narrowest margin of any House race in the country, is not running for reelection in 2020. And the open seat, which President Donald Trump carried by 6 points in 2016, is part of the demographically-changing Atlanta metro area -- just the kind of district Democrats hope is ripe for the picking in 2020.

Democrats insist that their health care message helped them win control of the House in 2018, and it's the message many of them are sticking with heading into 2020, despite impeachment hearings dominating the news. (Islam has been out front on that issue, and called for impeachment proceedings back in May, well before a critical mass of House Democrats took that approach.)

 

Islam, who supports "Medicare for All," is currently insured through First Health Network in a plan that charges a $25 co-pay for up to five in-network primary, specialist and urgent care visits a year. Her prescription plan covers 20% of the cost of generic drugs only, and for only 12 prescriptions a year.

The Democratic activist calls it a "junk plan" that wouldn't cover an ambulance or hospitalization if she were hit by a tree while canvassing. So she's letting it lapse as of Dec. 31, and will join the ranks of Georgians who don't have coverage. About 14% of the 7th District population doesn't have health insurance, according to the Census Bureau.

Islam's current plan is costing her about $120 a month, money she says she needs to cover her own living expenses as she campaigns for Congress. She's also putting her student loans in forbearance -- meaning she doesn't have to pay them right now, but she'll have to pay them back later, with more interest. She estimates that will save her about $300 per month right now but will eventually add an additional $3,000 to her $28,000 pile of debt.

Islam last worked full-time in January as a self-employed political consultant. Before that she was southern regional finance director for the Democratic National Committee and previously worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and Jason Carter's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. When she launched her own campaign in February, she thought she'd pick up a part-time job during the campaign. But it would have been too much to juggle.

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