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