Sen. Durbin: 'Good News' That Motel Housekeeper Is So Poor She Qualifies for Medicaid Under Obamacare

By Susan Jones | September 25, 2013 | 11:18am EDT

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (AP File Photo)

( - Questioning Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Dick Dubin, an Illinois Democrat, explained why he's proud to have voted for Obamacare.

He told the story of a chambermaid named Judy who works "at a motel that I often go to," and who will benefit from Obamacare because she is so poor: "The good news for Judy is that her income is so low that she now qualifies for Medicaid for the first time in her life," Durbin said.

Here's what Durbin said to Cruz:

One of the reasons that I voted for health care reform -- and am proud that I did -- was illustrated by a woman that I met in southern Illinois...this woman's name is Judy, and Judy is a housekeeper at a motel that I often go to, and we've become friends. Judy has worked her whole life in manual labor. She's been everything you can imagine -- cook, a waitress, housekeeper, all of these thing. She's 62 years old.

Judy told me that she'd never had health insurance one day in her life -- ever. She worked every single day that she could, but she never had health insurance.

It turns out that Judy was diabetic, and we found some doctors and hospitals locally in her area to give her some care.

We just had an announcement in Illinois that's going to be officially released tomorrow about what this new health insurance marketplace in Illinois means for people like Judy.

It means that we're going to offer 165 different health insurance plans in Illinois by 8 different insurers. The premiums -- at the lowest level of health insurance for those who aren't under Medicaid -- will be in the range of $84 a month.

But the good news for Judy is that her income is so low that she now qualifies for Medicaid for the first time in her life."

Sen. Cruz responded, "You tell the story of Judy. The best way for Judy or for anyone to have health insurance is to have an economy that is booming where people can get jobs and have opportunities."

Before Durbin interrupted with his story about Judy, Sen. Cruz was near the beginning of his marathon, all-night speech in which he urged Republicans to unite in support of defunding Obamacare.

"I can't convince my colleagues," he said. "The only people that can convince my colleagues on this side of the aisle or that side of the aisle are the people all of us work for -- the American people," Cruz said.

In another exchange between Cruz and Durbin on Wednesday morning, the example of Judy came up again as Durbin addressed criticism that some of the lowest-cost health insurance plans in the Obamacare exchanges limit the doctors and hospitals that patients can use.

Durbin asked Cruz to put himself in Judy's place: "If you're being told you have a limitation on doctors and hospitals that you can use, but you have health insurance, isn't that a dramatic improvement over a lifetime of no health insurance? That's what Obamacare is going to offer her for the first time in her life. To say that we shouldn't give her that opportunity is like someone saying, if you can't fly first class, you can't get on the airplane. Listen, a lot peole would be glad to sit back in economy if they can just make the trip that you and I can make beause we're blessed with health insurance."

Cruz said he supports health care reform that increases competition, increases free market alternatives, and lowers the rate of health insurance that is available to people by allowing interstate competition and creating a national marketplace.

But Cruz said he does't want government bureaucrats to get between patients and their doctors.

"You told the story of Judy, and I do think we should have reforms to address her circumstance," Cruz said. But he also noted that there are "thousands or millions of people" who are in danger of losing their health insurance right now because of Obamacare. "And they have to be balanced in this equation as well," he said.

Cruz said, "The Senator from Illinois made a reference to Judy not needing to be in first class, but being content to be in coach. You know, I think that analogy is a powerful one, but what it really highlights is the special exemption that's been put in place for members of Congress, because President Obama has put an exemption in place for members of Congress that says members of Congress can fly first class, to use your airline analogy -- but average Americans who are being forced onto exchanges where their employers can't subsidize their premiuims -- they're not even flying coach, they're being put in the baggage compartment."

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