Iowans call for preserving and improving Affordable Care Act

King introduces bill for '100 percent repeal'

Raygun business owner Mike Draper speaks while other Iowa backers of the Affordable Care Act listen during a Tuesday, Jan. 2. 2017, forum appealing to the state’s congressional delegation to oppose any effort to scrap the federal health care law without a plan to cover up to 230,000 Iowans they say could lose coverage by 2019 even under a partial repeal. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa backers of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday appealed to the state’s congressional delegation to oppose any effort to scrap the federal health care law without a plan to cover up to 230,000 Iowans they say could lose coverage by 2019, even under a partial repeal.

Mary Nelle Trefz, a health policy associate at the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, said the health care law, also known as Obamacare, has enabled thousands of children of working families in Iowa to receive affordable health care coverage. It also has helped people with pre-existing medical conditions who now face uncertainty with Republican action to repeal the ACA.

“This would have a devastating impact on the health and well-being of Iowans,” Trefz told a news conference organized by Families USA as part of a progressive Protect Our Care coalition urging Iowans to contact U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Iowa’s four members of Congress to oppose a law change without a viable alternative in place to maintain health coverage.

Trefz said Iowa potentially could lose significant amounts of federal funding as marketplace subsidies and the Medicaid expansion end, and hospitals and taxpayers could pay more in uncompensated care costs due to an increase in the number of uninsured or underinsured Iowans.

Debbie Neustadt of Des Moines said she was diagnosed with a pre-existing medical condition that was covered under the ACA but will require an expensive follow-up test in three years that may put her in a vulnerable financial situation if there is no future replacement plan with provisions for people with pre-existing conditions such as hers.

“This has been a political football,” Nuestadt told reporters. “It’s people’s lives. It shouldn’t be a political football.”

Even a partial repeal of ACA care that left in tact until 2019 provisions for pre-existing conditions or allowing families to maintain coverage for dependents up to age 26 years would be problematic, Trefz said. Ending component parts such as the employer mandate or other provisions could destabilize the non-group insurance market this year as the pending loss of subsidies, elimination of the requirement to buy insurance or ending the requirement on insurers to sell to all purchasers could cause prices to rise and the healthiest people to drop coverage, she said.

Claudia Hawkins, a West Des Moines certified financial education trainer, expressed concern over the loss of access by self-employed people such as herself to purchase coverage through the ACA marketplace. At the same time, retiree Midge Slater worried that Iowa seniors on Medicare would lose guaranteed access to free preventive screenings as well as protections from spiraling prescription drug costs.

Speakers said there are ways to modify and improve the federal health care law rather than “tearing it out by the roots” as some Republican candidates advocated during the 2016 election campaign.

“The ACA has been a lifeline for small business owners who have always struggled to obtain health care coverage,” Raygun store owner Mike Draper said. “To repeal it now, just when it is beginning to work and enable self-employed Iowans to have coverage would be a blow to small businesses everywhere.”

The Republican-controlled Congress wasted little time moving against the ACA on Tuesday. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Michael Enzi, R-Washington, introduced a resolution that Grassley, who sits on that committee, called “a first step in repealing a collapsing program and replacing it with policies that work for working families.”

“Health care coverage, affordability and quality are critical to quality of life,” he added in a news release. “At every step of this process, I plan to keep in mind how Congress and the incoming president can best deliver for the millions of Americans counting on us to act to repeal Obamacare while protecting access to medical care for all Americans.”

In the House, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Storm Lake, introduced a bill he branded “a full, 100 percent repeal.”

“I believe Obamacare should be ripped out by the roots, and I will not stop fighting until we have successfully done just that,” King said in a statement.

“Since the botched implementation of Obamacare, millions of people have had their health insurance plans canceled because their grandfathered plans were in violation of ObamaCare’s ‘essential health benefits.’”

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