Congressional candidate Rebecca Quigg isn’t an expert on foreign policy or government finances, but the cardiologist is ready to match experience and expertise with any of her 17 rivals on the April 18’s 6th District ballot when it comes to health policy and the Affordable Care Act.
“We need a doctor in the House who wants to give health care coverage to patients in America, who wants to fight to keep the law we have, improve it and expand it to cover everyone,” said Quigg, who lives in East Cobb and has worked the past four years as a health reform advocate and ACA consultant, from helping people enroll for health coverage to forcing insurers to meet their coverage requirements.
“There couldn’t be a more perfect time for someone like me to run,” she said.
Quigg ended her 25-year career as a cardiologist and moved with her younger son, Gregory, to the Atlanta area three years ago from Chicago, where she directed the heart transplant program she created at Northwestern University. Her goal was to find the right school for Gregory, who has a central auditory processing disorder.
He needed special therapies, and Pope High School proved to be the perfect fit because of its special education program and its competition marching band, in which he played tenor saxophone. He will graduate from Pope in May, then head off to college to study engineering.
Her son’s experience has demonstrated to Quigg both the value of public education and some of the deficiencies that can be addressed with more funding, such as the counseling departments.
But it was health care that pulled her into Democratic politics for the first time.
She attended a conference last fall at which Republican Rep. Tom Price and Sen. Johnny Isakson talked about the need to raise the retirement age to save Social Security, an idea Quigg rejects. People have paid their money into the system and deserve to get it out, she said, and even if some white-collar workers don’t need the money until long after they’re 65, some blue-collar workers will struggle just to make it to 65.
Quigg explained her disagreement with Price on Social Security after the meeting, then asked him why he voted against letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, as Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs do. Price cited the high research and development costs paid by drugmakers; Quigg responded with the huge profits they make.
The discussion stuck with her when Donald Trump picked Price as his health and human services secretary. Quigg opposes most of what Trump says and does, but she said putting Price in charge of the nation’s health care might be his worst move.
So she organized a downtown protest of his nomination and the ACA repeal plans Jan. 15; it was a new experience for her. When she got a positive response to her comments about health care a few days later at a protest outside Price’s Roswell office, she decided to run for his 6th District seat.
“I will speak out as soon as I’m there about what the truth is,” Quigg said, criticizing the misinformation from members of Congress about the law. “The American people have been lied to.”
For example, she said premiums have skyrocketed and insurers have abandoned some states because ACA opponents have refused to enforce the law’s provisions, including a cap on annual premium increases. But the two Democratic physicians in the House have been silent, Quigg said, while the 16 Republican physicians have gone along with repeal efforts, putting at risk such popular protections as coverage for people up to age 26 on their parents’ policies and the elimination of a lifetime cap on benefits.
“The thought that we would lose all those benefits is very overwhelming, and I’m set to fight for this,” said Quigg, a Pittsburgh native who had to go into debt to put herself through Washington and Jefferson College and Penn State’s medical school. “I know the facts of this law.”
The race to replace Price is her first political battle, but Quigg has the examples of her parents in fighting for what’s right. Her father served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, then became an iron worker, and her mother was an early, successful fighter for women to get equal pay for equal work.
As the daughter of a veteran and as a physician who worked in Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, Quigg is adamant about getting veterans the best care possible.
She said she also is passionate about resisting Trump administration efforts such as undermining public education, delaying or stopping Muslim refugees, and dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, but health care remains the heart of her campaign.
“If Georgia wants a person in Congress that happens to be a physician and an expert on this law, that can actually speak directly to the issues rather than gather from other people who may not be correct,” she said, “then they should elect me.”