Sen. Joni Ernst’s past votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act have been the subject of countless political ads and press conferences from Democrats and progressive groups. But the senator is also hearing plenty of push-back from Iowans in-person, including at her recent town hall forum in Jefferson, Iowa.
On Friday, Kent Scheib, a 64-year-old farmer from outside of Perry, stood up at Ernst’s forum to take her to task for her ACA repeal votes.
“I have a son who lives in Phoenix. If he wants to come home and farm with me, he can do that today. Before the Affordable Care Act, if he had diabetes, a heart condition … he couldn’t get insurance,” Scheib told Ernst. “He couldn’t come home and farm with dad.”
Scheib called the ACA the best program to happen in America since Social Security and Medicare, which elicited a round of applause from about half the audience at the event held in a rural, conservative county.
“I hope that means something to you,” Schieb commented of the reaction.
The farmer went on to note that ACA-qualified plans paid for many preventative care procedures, like colonoscopies and mammograms.
“That provision alone has saved thousands upon thousands of Americans, maybe some in this room,” he said, adding that it helps cut costs overall.
“You didn’t think those provisions weren’t important,” he added of pre-existing conditions coverage.
Ernst pushed back on that comment and defended her votes, claiming the ACA failed on cost-saving goals.
“What Obamacare did was provide access to insurance. So, we have a lot of folks who are covered now. But what it did not do was control the cost of health care,” Ernst said.
Several of the audience members grumbled in response, and Ernst went on to point to her work on lowering prescription drug costs, which she noted was the second-largest expense after insurance premiums.
“Obamacare didn’t control that cost to the consumer, so we’re tackling that now … We understand that if you have an insurance plan that you like, we want you to keep it,” Ernst added. “That didn’t necessarily happen with Obamacare. We’ve still seen rates go up. Family of three in Red Oak, Iowa that I know personally, small business owners — $28,000 a year in premiums for health insurance. They make too much to get government subsidy.”
Ernst also said that she had supported other legislation that would have ensured pre-existing conditions coverage outside of her ACA votes.
“All of the bills that I saw that covered pre-existing conditions, which they did, did not put a restriction on the premium that insurance companies would pay,” Scheib said in response. “It was going to be prohibitive. What we have now works, let’s just try to build on it.”
Overall, Scheib wasn’t too impressed with Ernst’s answers on health care.
“I think she’s a United States senator because she’s a politician. She talks out of both sides of her mouth,” he told Starting Line after the town hall. “What do you expect her to say? She gives her vote to Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party, let them use it the way they want to use it.”
“Until we got something better, let’s don’t get rid of it,” he added. “And if we can’t fix it, then fine, let’s get a plan that’s better and put it in front of the American people and they can decide. They didn’t do any of that. They just threw it out the window because the blowhard in the White House said it’s bad.”
by Pat Rynard