Small businesses can't afford political games
As a family farmer, I believe small businesses are the backbone of our economy here in Iowa. We create local jobs, circulate local dollars, and work together to build a vibrant community.
But instead of protecting small business, the GOP is playing political games with our health care — games Iowa can’t afford to lose.
After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 4 million small-business owners, some of them farmers like me, were able to get health insurance for the first time. The ACA provided a measure of stability we needed to keep our businesses going strong. The law is not perfect, but it’s making a big difference for Iowa’s families and economy.
But President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan seem more interested in politics than in Iowa’s future.
Trump and Ryan have been pushing a Republican repeal bill that would strip at least 23 million Americans of health insurance, charge older people more for their coverage, and let insurance companies discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
At the same time, Trump has tried to sabotage the ACA from day one of his presidency. He refused to advertise for HealthCare.gov during the open enrollment period and signed an executive order suggesting that his administration would not enforce the individual mandate, which helps keep premiums down for all of us.
And ahead of his recent trip to Iowa, Vice President Mike Pence stated that Iowans know “all too well about Obama’s problems,” but what we really know all too well, Mr. Vice President, is that this administration has done everything in its power to ensure Iowans lose the health care they need.
Today, the president continues to sow chaos and uncertainty in the health care market with threats that the ACA soon will “explode.”
Of particular concern in rural markets, the Trump administration has refused to confirm whether it will continue to fund the cost-sharing reduction payments included in the ACA.
These payments reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for millions of Americans, including Iowa’s small-business owners and farmers, who purchase health insurance through the ACA marketplaces. Without these payments, people won’t be able to afford their coverage. Some insurance companies may stop selling health insurance altogether, reducing competition and further increasing prices.
Trump’s sabotage of the law already has created so much worry among insurers that many have pulled out of the market entirely. And one of the last remaining insurers, Medica, recently threatened to pull out, as well.
The result? Rural communities across Iowa could be left without any options for purchasing health insurance. And Trump’s own supporters likely will be among the hardest hit.
Trump could fix this right now. He could just confirm that he will renew these payments instead of using this vital support as a political bargaining chip.
Trump and the Republicans are hoping that their sabotage will cripple the ACA and that they’ll be able to blame the weakened law on the Democrats. Then the Republicans think they’ll be able to win support for their harmful repeal bill. That’s just plain cynical.
The good news is that Americans aren’t buying it — only 17 percent support the GOP bill.
Republicans in Washington, D.C., are overdue for a wake-up call. We demand common-sense solutions to the problems we face — not finger-pointing and cynical games. And we expect our leaders to act in the best interests of their constituents, including the family farms and small businesses that make our state a good place to live and work.
If I treated businesspeople and customers I work with the way our politicians are treating us right now, I would be out of business within a few weeks. I imagine it’s not too different in politics. When our lives and livelihoods are on the line, Iowans like me won’t hesitate to make our voices heard at the ballot box.
• Chris Petersen is a farmer from Clear Lake and a member of the Main Street Alliance