Several Iowans with preexisting conditions, along with State Sen. Claire Celsi and State Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, rallied at the Neal Smith Federal Building this morning to protest Sen. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley’s votes from Wednesday to allow junk insurance plans, a rule put forth by the Trump administration.
“The vote that [Ernst and Grassley] took yesterday was a vote to take health care away from Iowans,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “They have chosen in this health care fight, and they chosen to refuse to stand up for everyday Iowans.”
Despite an estimated 1.3 million Iowans having preexisting conditions, and despite Sen. Ernst saying that she is fighting to protect those people, Ernst and Grassley both voted with Republicans to kill a measure from Democratic Senators that would have put an end to plans that circumvent ACA rules on preexisting conditions coverage.
“I stand here with my daughter, one of the 1.3 million Iowans with a pre-existing conditions,” said Rochean Wilder. “It makes no sense to me that we’re standing here once again in the same predicament that we were four years ago and two years ago, and once again we’re looking at Joni Ernst to do the one thing she said she was going to do, and that’s represent us.”
For Whom The Vote Tolls
Several organizational leaders and elected officials gathered with Wilder on Thursday to talk about their personal connection to the issue and what they hear from their constituents, or those they serve.
“I’m not only here as an executive director of an organization, but someone with several preexisting conditions and a daughter with a preexisting condition, and this is unacceptable,” said Emily Holley, executive director of Iowa Voices.
Nearly everyone who spoke at the rally has a preexisting condition, so they directly understand, and connect with, the situation this leaves other Iowans in.
“My constituents talk to me all the time about how they’re feeling squeezed,” said Sen. Celsi. “We know for a fact that Joni Ernst has voted against the ACA with no replacement, and we know that she’s willing to put Iowans at risk; thousands, maybe even millions of Iowans.”
Others took time to point out just how many people could be affected by this.
“If 1.3 million Iowans have pre-existing conditions, as do I, as do my children, as do my parents, that means that almost half the state’s population would be negatively affected by these junk insurance plans,” said Rep. Konfrst. “When half of the state’s population could be negatively impacted by something our senators are advocating for, they deserve to be called out. We need to stand up and say enough is enough.”
Messaging Change Reflects Priorities
Progress Iowa called into question Ernst’s campaign for her seat nearly six years ago, and how her messaging used to be about repealing Obamacare, which she has been on board with, but how she no longer talks about that on the trail.
“When she ran for Senate in 2014, how much has changed since then? How many times did they run on ‘we’re gonna repeal and replace Obamacare?’ Every speech and every event,” Sinovic explained. “They don’t say that anymore; it’s shifted completely to where now they’re lying to us and saying they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions, and the votes show they clearly don’t.”
And while Republicans and the Trump administration have taken the ACA to court to try to get it ruled unconstitutional, Ernst talks at her town halls about protecting Iowans with pre-existing conditions, though she’ll admit her past vote to repeal the ACA.
“It shows that Sen. Ernst is in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies and donors that don’t want these protections in place,” Sinovic said. “She should be working for Iowans, but the people that she’s actually working for, the special interests, they know it’s expensive to cover people with preexisting conditions — they see it in their bottom line. They want her to vote this way, and so she’s voting the way she is.”
The most recent vote could have intense consequences, and could leave people covered under these ‘short-term’ plans with surprisingly high bills after medical issues pops up — even fairly routine ones.
“There are so many Iowans who are struggling to make ends meet,” Sinovic explained. “The last thing they need is to be charged more for preexisting conditions or to just simply lose coverage, and that’s exactly what Senator Grassley and Senator Ernst voted for yesterday.”
By Josh Cook