Sen. Joni Ernst’s voting record on Medicaid expansion and protecting insurance coverage for Iowans with preexisting health conditions was the subject of the launch of a new grassroots organization in the state working to amplify examples of everyday hardships.
Emily Holley, executive director of Iowa Voices, introduced the new initiative Thursday at the Iowa Statehouse with a press conference highlighting the health care experiences of two Iowans directly impacted by policy decisions made in Washington and Des Moines.
And Holley had a story to tell, too.
She told the audience about chronic pain she has suffered for more than two decades, the difficulty she faces affording her medication and having reliable access to comprehensive health insurance.
“Sen. Ernst promised that she would go to Washington and protect us,” said Holley, referencing the 1.3 million Iowans with preexisting health conditions. “But then she voted to allow insurance companies to charge those with preexisting conditions more, or worse, allow insurance companies to not cover us at all — that’s unacceptable.”
Signs placed next to the podium read, “Senator Ernst voted to take away health care coverage for 146,000 Iowans.” and “Senator Ernst voted for a tax cut for wealthy donors. What about us?”
Ernst, Iowa’s junior Republican senator first elected in 2014, officially launched her first reelection bid last weekend.
When talking about health care Saturday at her Roast and Ride event, Ernst accused Democrats of advocating for “government-run health care.”
Instead, the senator said, Republicans were “working to identify solutions for affordable, quality health care for Iowans,” though she mentioned no specific ideas of how to achieve that goal.
Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Iowa Voices will travel across the state to “elevate the stories of working class Iowans to highlight how conservative health care and taxes policies have left them behind,” according to a statement.
At the Capitol press conference, Dr. Glenn Hurst, a family physician in Minden, described himself as “a dying breed.”
“I say that not because I am in a situation where I can’t see enough patients or can’t care for the people around me,” Hurst said. “But because I’m being slowly strangled and suffocated by the system that we’re forced to work in with Medicare and Medicaid in rural Iowa.”
Medicaid covers 25% of the costs for the majority of health care providers in rural Iowa, Hurst said, and covers two-thirds of the costs of long-term care.
He called out Ernst for her 2013 vote in the Iowa Senate against expanding Medicaid services through the Affordable Care Act.
“She’s given no demonstration that she appreciates the impact that would have had, had we not expanded Medicaid,” Hurst said.
Des Moines social worker Rochean Wilder detailed the hardships she has faced in caring for her autistic daughter.
“I am in a position where I could potentially lose the medications that she needs or that I will have to pay more for those same prescriptions,” said Wilder, as she talked about the “anxiety” she faced knowing that a new Managed Care Organization (MCO) would soon be apart of Iowa’s Medicaid market.
Instead of Ernst going to Congress to “fight for Iowans,” Wilder said, “she voted multiple times to repeal protections for people with preexisting conditions, like my daughter.”
“Sen. Ernst says that she’s concerned for Iowans like me and my daughter and she says that she’s concerned about affordable medication for them, but she voted for tax breaks for wealthy drug companies,” Wilder said. “They got rewards while Iowans like myself got nothing.”
You can learn more about Iowa Voices at their website.
by Elizabeth Meyer