Column: Don't do the DC dance on health care reformDES MOINES, Iowa — As this is being written, a health-care summit has been called in Washington, D.C.
By: David Johnson, Iowa State Senator, Worthington Daily Globe
DES MOINES, Iowa — As this is being written, a health-care summit has been called in Washington, D.C.
It’s billed as a high-level, bipartisan meeting of administration officials, including President Obama, and members of Congress.
By most accounts, the meeting is poorly planned and destined to reignite the American public’s fiery disdain for Beltway politics and government intrusion.
Comes now your capital city of Des Moines. Surely there’s more common sense at work in the Iowa Legislature. Well, yes and no. Without question, Iowans are concerned about access to health care, double-digit increases in medical costs, rising insurance premiums and quality of care.
As ranking member of the Health and Human Services budget subcommittee, this session I introduced six bills designed to move our state toward health-care reform but away from the confusing maze being offered up in Washington. In summary, here’s a look at four examples:
l One bill would encourage insurance companies to develop low-cost policies covering catastrophic illnesses and injuries. The legislation is specifically intended for Iowans under the age of 30, those young adults who too often believe they are “invincible” and not in need of health insurance. In fact, half of uninsured Iowans are age 18 to 30.
l Another proposal centers on wellness. Make a long-term commitment to living a healthy lifestyle — be a nonsmoker, make good food choices, exercise regularly — and lower your insurance premiums. Under the current system, healthy people are being penalized.
l Pre-existing conditions are addressed in another bill. The legislation would end the denial of insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions when a consumer changes plans with the same insurance provider.
l Still another proposal would expand the availability of deductions for small businesses that provide insurance to employees. With small businesses being the engine of job growth in Iowa, such taxable-income deductions should be extended to all businesses and individuals, be they subchapter S corporations, limited liability companies or sole proprietorships.
Regrets, but these bills were not considered by the majority party. Instead, one senator from that party continued to press forward in his quest to bring universal health care to Iowa, and if not that, at least the start of a single-payer, government-run expansion that does nothing to contain the rising costs of medical care.
As the HHS budget subcommittee heard this week, the state cannot afford the current demand for Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for lower income Iowans, and the statewide safety net of human services. The proposed expansion will cost taxpayers at least $200 million in the first two years, according to non-partisan fiscal analysts at the state Capitol. And in subsequent years, the expansion will definitely have an effect on the cost curve — that curve will be up, not down.
Efforts have been launched to trim the proposal. If those efforts are successful, I will support the legislation. It’s just too bad the minority party was never invited to the health-care table in Des Moines.
David Johnson of Ocheyedan represents Iowa Senate District 3 — all of Clay, Dickinson, O’Brien and Osceola counties, and part of Sioux County.