By Kurt Erickson
SPRINGFIELD — One of Democratic congressional candidate David Gill’s newest television ads focuses on a 39-year-old woman named Susan who he says died of a heart attack because she lacked health insurance.
But, a review of the emergency room doctor’s past campaign material shows the story about Susan isn’t necessarily new. And, it’s not clear who Susan really is.
In a 2006 campaign video produced when Gill was making an unsuccessful bid for Congress in Illinois’ 15th District, he told a similar story about a 39-year-old person who died of a heart attack that may have been prevented had the person been covered by health insurance.
But in the 2006 telling — and in another version published on a blog in 2009 — the subject of the story was a man, not a woman named Susan.
That has raised questions from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports Gill’s opponent, Rodney Davis of Taylorville, in the race for the 13th District seat.
“Health care is a serious issue. David Gill appears to be manipulating the facts to justify his support of government-run health care. Let’s stick to the facts and try to not mislead the voter,” wrote NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill in an email Friday.
In a statement issued in response, Gill said he was, indeed, referring to two different patients he treated several years apart. He noted 42,540 Illinoisans die of cardiovascular disease every year.
“My Republican opponent and his supporters are trashing the memories of these Illinoisans for cheap political gain,” Gill said in a news release.
Gill deputy campaign manager Tom Alte previously said Gill can’t discuss the specifics of who Susan really is because of doctor-patient confidentiality policies. But, Alte said, “She was a real person.”
In Gill’s subsequent statement, the doctor said he treated Susan more than a decade ago at Dr. John Warner Hospital in Clinton.
"The sad thing these people had in common was that they both died because they didn't have health insurance," said Lucy Stein, Gill's press secretary, in the later statement. "These are two different people years apart who suffered a fate that happens to someone in America every twelve minutes: They didn't have insurance coverage and they couldn't afford to pay the bills out of their pockets."
Stein previously suggested Susan may be an amalgamation of a number of similar experiences Gill has had over the years.
The Susan character is playing a prominent role in Gill’s campaign as he and Davis head toward a Nov. 6 showdown in a district stretching from Champaign to Edwardsville.
On his Facebook page, Gill says, “Check out our new TV spot & help me keep fighting for Susan.”
He’s also using “Susan” in his latest fundraising appeals.
Roger Miller contributed to this report.
You make the call
Following are transcripts from campaign videos made by Dr. David Gill:
From his 2012 campaign: “I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon that I took care of a young woman, a 39-year-old woman, came in, in full cardiac arrest, a woman named Susan and we tried and tried to resuscitate her and we didn’t succeed, she died. I talked to her husband shortly thereafter and he was beside himself obviously and he said this shouldn’t have happened, she had chest pain a week ago and she was told that we should get you admit-ted and worked up, have a stress test. And she had one of those jobs that doesn’t provide health insurance and so they looked at each other, her chest pain had subsided, and they went on home and now here she was in front of me stone cold dead ... She had two beautiful little children and now they have to grow without a mom and he now doesn’t have his wife.”
Watch the 2012 video: bit.ly/QAnU1o
Watch the 2012 “Susan” TV ad: bit.ly/OtF16d
From his 2006 campaign: “Several weeks ago I had a 39-year-old patient die in my emergency room, leaving behind his wife and two small children. He had a heart attack and for about a week previously he had had some mild chest pains on and off. But, because he lacked health insurance, he ignored his wife’s pleas to go see a doc-tor. And so, as so often happens, he wound up in my ER too late. Now his two little children will grow up without a father.”
Watch the 2006 video: bit.ly/QvtmTf