The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Iowa State Senators: “Grassley Should Start Listening to Iowans”

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The Des Moines Register:

“The will of Iowans and the rest of America is marching steadily toward reform.”

The following is a guest opinion on health care reform by State Senators Jack Hatch and Joe Bolkcom that appeared in Saturday’s Des Moines Register. [I encountered it as a reprint at Blog for Iowa - Monte]

As we head into August, a few Washington lawmakers are standing in the way of health-care reform that America desperately needs. While patients are denied crucial treatment and families go bankrupt from medical bills, Sen. Charles Grassley and a cadre of his Senate colleagues have provoked a stir by steadfastly refusing to support the most essential piece of President Barack Obama’s proposal: a public health-insurance option. We think it’s time for Grassley to start listening to Iowans and work with the president for real health-care reform.

A public health-insurance option would introduce much needed competition into the health-insurance market, extending quality care to as many as 300,000 Iowans, while providing incentives to insurance companies to offer their current customers a better deal. Unfortunately, in a July 30 Des Moines Register editorial, Grassley said he opposes giving Americans the choice of a public option “because it is a pathway to a completely government-run system.”

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 03:  Sen. Chuck Grassley ...
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But, as Grassley knows, a public health-insurance option would not be set up like Medicare. In an August 4 editorial, the Register makes that clear: Medicare is almost fully subsidized, while the public option is funded by premiums and subsidized only for the lowest-income persons. A public health-insurance plan would give Americans more choices, not fewer.In Iowa, just two companies, Wellmark (71 percent) and United Health Group (9 percent) control 80 percent of the market for health insurance. This near-monopoly has allowed them to set unreasonable terms that have left close to 300,000 Iowans uninsured, and thousands more strapped with high costs. With a public health-insurance plan, as many as 81 percent of those people would gain access to affordable care. And for those who like their current health-insurance coverage, Obama has consistently said you can keep it.

The cost of doing nothing is unsustainable.Here in Iowa, we’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects the monopolistic health-insurance industry has had on our state. From 2000 to 2007, Iowans saw their premiums skyrocket by 73 percent, almost four times faster than their earnings. According to a recent report by the New America Foundation, called “The Cost of Doing Nothing,” health-insurance premiums will climb out of control from roughly $4,500 today to more than $7,600 (76 percent increase) by 2016.

The average deductible in Iowa will also reach nearly $3,300 by 2016 – almost doubling the amount Iowa residents will have to spend before their insurance begins to pay for their medical care. Families will have to spend more than $21,500, or 39 percent of median household income to buy insurance.

And it’s not just the numbers that scream out for reform. Every week, we hear more horror stories from constituents who have been denied coverage for urgently needed care and from small businesses that can’t keep up with the costs of insuring their employees.

We have struggled in Iowa for the past few years for solutions. We are proud of the bipartisan efforts we have made to provide access to health-insurance coverage for all Iowa children. We now need a strong federal partner to address care for all adults and under-insured Iowans.Many of us in the Iowa Legislature recognize what a difference a public health-insurance option would make to constituents without insurance and those seeking more affordable and better coverage.

That’s why more than 50 of our Iowa colleagues have signed on in support of the national reform efforts being led by Obama. Almost 1,000 state legislators from all 50 states, have joined this movement.The drumbeat for reform is loud and getting louder. Two out of three Americans (New York Times/CBS Poll, July 2009) support a government-sponsored, public health-insurance plan to compete with private health-insurance plans. A majority of Iowans also are clamoring for change.

The president told us during his campaign that health-care reform would not be easy, and that he could not do it alone. The will of Iowans and the rest of America is marching steadily toward reform. We hope Grassley will listen to Iowans and be on the right side of health-care-reform history.

Sen. Jack Hatch is from Des Moines.  Contact: jack@hatchdevelopment.com.  Sen. Joe Bolkcom is from Iowa City. Contact: joe@joebolkcom.org ~

Write a letter supporting health care reform to your local newspapers while we still have them. opinions@qctimes.com, letters@nytimes.com, letters@dmreg.com, or go to Congress.org/MediaGuide where you can send a letter to any newspaper in Iowa on their convenient web form.

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5 Responses

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  1. [...] Iowa State Senators: “Grassley Should Start Listening to Iowans” (masbury.wordpress.com) [...]

  2. I would be interested to know if Sen Grassley supported “IOWA CARE”. The way I understand it, “IOWA CARE” is a sliding-scale-premium health care program for anyone living at or below poverty level. For me, at present, it is free as I have no income. University of Iowa Hospital (Iowa City) and Broadlawns Hospital (Des Moines) are the only two participating facilities. The system is administrated by Department of Human Resources.
    If Sen. Grassley did not support “IOWA CARE”, I wonder what he gave as a reason. If he did support it, I wonder why he is not participating in the national reforms.
    There may be logic I do not see.
    Sharon

    Sharon

    August 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    • I’m not sure Sen. Grassley would have been in the mix on Iowa Care, it being a state program and he being a US Senator. Obviously, there’s more to it that I don’t know, but I’m thinking Iowa Care took place at the Iowa Statehouse rather than the US Capitol.

      Monte

      August 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

  3. Your post is helpful.
    There has been a great deal of talk in the media — print, radio, tv — just about everywhere about the behavior and tactics being employed by various organizations. There have been comments about well behaved and polite citizenry attending meetings to voice their opinions. There have been stories of those who haven’t conducted themselves well. I suspect these stories will go on throughout the month of August and perhaps beyond. For one, I hope they do go on well beyond.

    I think both sides have taken essentially the same tactics. Labeling each other with invectives, giving their supporters a ‘playbook’, and attempting to use the media to their advantage. All of this is okay. It is okay because in America we have the right to freedom of speech, assembly and freedom of the press. These are rights that thousands have given their lives to protect. The debate on health care which consumes nearly a fifth of the national economy and involves everyone is something that we should openly debate and understand the intended and unintended consequences of before we change an entire system.

    It is important to provide better access, bend the cost curve so that health care is affordable (and not just through shifting costs by taxing) as well as sustainable, and improving the quality of the care delivered.

    We are a country that leads the world in health care innovation. We have to zealously protect that aspect. No other country in the world is positioned to take our place if we take our eye off this important work.

    But above all democracy demands that citizens get involved and voice their opinions.

    • Thanks for your comment. I do believe there are significant differences in strategy among the several groups involved, and that some are ethical and some are not.

      I know of no instance of pro-reform groups intentionally distributing falsehoods. Anti-reform groups have routinely insisted that “the bill” (as if there were only one and it were in final form) includes “death panels,” euthanasia, rationing, is like the Canadian and British programs, “puts a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor,” is “socialized medicine,” is “a government takeover of healthcare” ad infinitum.

      These, along with the recent attempts to shout down public informational events, are designed to confuse and alarm the American people, not to inform. I know of no such propaganda efforts, nor intents to defraud the American public of the factual information needed for democracy to function, that come from pro-reform groups.

      Fraudulent information is destructive to democratic decision-making. Unfortunately, anti-reform groups would rather damage and deceive our nation than trust informed democracy to take its course. They are not “democracy in action,” but the usurpation of democracy by unscrupulous self-interest.

      Monte

      August 11, 2009 at 12:05 pm


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