Government

Rita Hart says she'll push to reverse privatized Medicaid system in Iowa

2nd Congressional District candidate releases her health care plan

Rita Hart, then the running mate with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, speaks June 16, 2018, during the
Rita Hart, then the running mate with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, speaks June 16, 2018, during the Iowa State Democratic Convention in Des Moines. Hart, who now is running for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat, has released her health care plan. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Democratic Iowa congressional candidate Rita Hart would push to reverse Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system and provide “quality, affordable health care” for all Iowans by seeking to build upon a threatened federal health care law.

“Like it is for so many Iowans, health care is personal for me,” Hart said in a statement announcing her health care plan.

A former Democratic state senator and lieutenant governor candidate now running for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat, Hart, in an essay posted at Medium.com on Monday, talked about her mother’s years spent in and out of hospitals and clinics because her heart was damaged by rheumatic fever. Hart also talked of a quadriplegic nephew paralyzed by an accidental gunshot wound.

“Health care should be a right, not a privilege,” the 64-year-old farmer and 20-year educator from Wheatland wrote. “That means everyone should have access to critical care, and no one should go broke because they can’t afford it.”

Hart is running for the seat now held by retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack. She will face Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, 64, of Ottumwa.

An eye surgeon and former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Miller-Meeks aided efforts to lower prescription drug prices and make pricing more transparent, and to make substance abuse treatment and prenatal care more accessible for Medicaid patients.

She also has touted efforts to lay the groundwork for a children’s mental-health system, and organized a physician recruitment and retention organization to help bring physicians to southeast Iowa.

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Hart said she would work with both parties in Congress to protect coverage for patients with preexisting medical conditions and lower prescription drug costs, by allowing Medicaid to directly negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies.

Hart said she would fight to protect the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and strongly opposes a Trump administration-backed lawsuit to repeal the law. Democrats and health officials say doing so would strip coverage for an estimated 1.3 million Iowans with preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, cancer or asthma.

President Donald Trump and other Republicans have said they will pass separate legislation to preserve protections for people with preexisting conditions. However, the White House has provided no details.

Hart also said she would push measures to increase rural access to medical services by promoting telehealth; and providing incentives for “high-need providers,” such as OB-GYNs, psychologists and psychiatric nurses, and fixing Iowa’s low Medicare reimbursement rate to “make it possible for new providers to work in rural Iowa.”

Hart also took aim at Iowa’s Medicaid program, stating she would push to repeal a federal waiver granted to allow private insurance companies to run the state-federal program that provides health coverage for hundreds of thousands of poor and disabled Iowans, including children.

Supporters, including Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, said the managed-care model provided patients better care while better managing costs and saving the state money. However, results of a survey conducted by the Iowa state auditor, a Democrat, released this summer found more than half of health care providers who responded said the switch has had a negative impact on quality and access to care.

“The experiment with Medicaid privatization has failed in Iowa,” Hart wrote. “The system is not working and we need to start over.”

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