IA-Sen: Where The Democrats Stand On Health Care Policy

Graham photo by Julie Fleming

County auditors across Iowa will begin mailing absentee ballots to voters on April 23 ahead of the June 2 primary, which largely has faded into the background as the state and nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Absentee voting will be more important than ever this year as election officials encourage Iowans to vote from home and polling locations are consolidated in order to limit the number of people in public on Election Day.

In an effort to help educate voters on the Democratic candidates vying for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s seat, Starting Line will publish a comparative issue-focused article each week leading up to early voting, starting with health care today.

Since Ernst took office in 2015, she has repeatedly voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, including support for a repeal bill in 2017 that offered no replacement for the health care law. Now she campaigns on a message of support for protecting the insurance of Americans with preexisting health conditions, while at the same time berating the Democratic policies that made it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with cancer, diabetes and thousands of other ailments.

This article explores the health care proposals of five Democrats competing in the June 2 primary.

Michael Franken

From frankenforiowa.org: “Banning private health insurance is not the direction needed to ensure every American has access to quality care.”

Franken, a retired Navy admiral, supports “fully” implementing and expanding upon the Affordable Care Act and adding Medicare as a public option to the health care marketplace. Franken believes “Medicare should be available for all who want it” and that health insurance in the U.S. should include “lifetime” dental, mental and preventative care.

Additionally, Franken says the federal government either should directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies or institute price caps on medication; implement a voluntary Expanded National Service Program to include training for nurses; and invest in community health centers and rural hospitals. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Franken supports a mandate requiring states maintain a certain level of personal protective equipment (PPE) and pandemic response equipment that is funded with help from the federal government.

On March 23, Franken recorded a video message celebrating the 10-year anniversary of President Obama’s ACA.

“Although Joni Ernst from Day One has been trying to shoot it down — four times she voted against it — that won’t happen with me,” he said.

Kimberly Graham

From kimberlyforiowa.com: Graham favors a “universal, single-payer” system that includes: dental; hearing; vision; home- and community-based long-term care; in-patient and out-patient services; mental health and substance abuse treatment; reproductive and maternity care; prescription drugs “and more.”

The Indianola attorney also wants the federal government to have the authority to negotiate drug prices and supports nationwide legalization of medical cannabis.

“Health care should work like any public service that we all chip in for,” Graham said. “When I go to the library, the books cost something, utilities cost something and librarians receive salaries. None of that is free.

“But when we go to the library, we hand them our card, leave with a book and never take out a debit card to pay or receive a bill in the mail later,” she continued. “It’s no-cost at point of service. That’s how health care should work in the United States.”

When discussing health care in America, Graham describes it as “a basic human right in a moral and wealthy nation. Human rights are not commodities to be marketed, bought or sold. Therefore, health care shouldn’t be a commodity.”

Theresa Greenfield

From greenfieldforiowa.com: If elected to the U.S. Senate, Greenfield would vote to strengthen the ACA and support the creation of “a public health insurance option for Iowans to buy into” while “working to bring down the cost of co-pays, prescription drugs, and health care as a whole.”

Because of the influence of insurance companies and pharmaceutical lobbyists in Washington, D.C., Greenfield says, “common sense solutions … are stalling in Congress.”

Growing up on a farm in Minnesota, Greenfield has prioritized outreach to small-town hospitals and rural health clinics.

“We also need to protect and strengthen Medicaid,” Greenfield said, in a recent op-ed for the Carroll Times Herald, centered on the importance of community hospitals during this public health crisis.

“Before this pandemic, nearly 18 percent of Iowa’s rural hospitals were at high risk of closure. Medicaid expansion has been a lifeline, but it is under threat from an ongoing federal lawsuit that may eliminate it altogether,” she said.

Greenfield repeatedly has called on Sen. Ernst to explain her position on the Trump Administration’s lawsuit to dismantle the ACA, which, if upheld by the courts, could throw millions off their health insurance.

Eddie Mauro

From eddiemauro.com: “While the Affordable Care Act has made incredible advances, it still has gaps in coverage and hasn’t fundamentally altered the cost of insurance or care for Iowans.”

Mauro’s approach to expanding the ACA borrows a slogan from former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who championed “Medicare for All Who Want It.”

Mauro wants to expand Medicare to include anyone 55 or older; implement a public option on the ACA marketplace for everyone 18-55; allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies; and end Medicaid privatization in Iowa.

He also laid out a four-point health care plan related to the coronavirus pandemic, including a special enrollment period in the ACA marketplace; “immediately” creating a public option under the ACA; having the federal government cover ACA premiums for people unemployed due to the pandemic and others who meet certain income thresholds; and rescind the requirement that Social Security recipients have to file tax returns in order to qualify for a stimulus check. (On April 1, the Treasury Department and IRS clarified that Social Security recipients who do not typically file tax returns will not be required to file one in order to receive a stimulus check.)

Though Mauro is a proponent of a public option in the ACA marketplace, he has said he would vote for Medicare for All if a bill made it to the Senate floor.

“At the end of the day, I believe there are a couple solutions available, but it is unacceptable that in the wealthiest country in the world people are avoiding the doctor out of fear of medical debt,” Mauro said. “It is high time we join the rest of the developed world and guarantee affordable quality healthcare for everyone in this country.”

Cal Woods

From calforiowa.com: “Don’t outlaw private health insurance. Rather, offer a public option.”

Part of the problem with private health insurance, Woods says, is the wasteful costs of marketing, advertising and administrative burdens that take away from health care providers and patients, not to mention the industry’s ties to stock market shareholders.

“I believe a public option would be the quickest way to get health care for all Americans,” Woods said. “We didn’t have to ban the horse and buggy, we just found more efficient transportation. Likewise we don’t have to ban private health insurance, we out-compete it with a more efficient public option.”

In a March interview with The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Woods reiterated his support for a public option, but according to the article, “if the political will was there to get it done immediately, he would vote for a Medicare for All plan instead.”

“People are literally dying because they’ve now been denied care thanks to our Republican-controlled Senate and people like Joni Ernst who voted against requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions,” Woods told the newspaper. “It’s shameful and it’s wrong and people are literally losing their lives over it.”

 

By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 4/7/20

2 Comments on "IA-Sen: Where The Democrats Stand On Health Care Policy"

  • Also important to note that whenever Kimberly Graham talks about a universal, single-payer system, she always mentions that it MUST include sufficient reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and clinics. It’s definitely a priority for her.

  • This pandemic has shown us that our broken healthcare system need more than a band-aid affixed to our current for-profit system. It confirms that health insurance should not be tacked onto one’s employment, but to be effective in ensuring our health, needs to cover us when we change jobs, are between jobs, loose jobs, or are self-employed. It has thrown a spotlight on how polluted environment -urban & rural- affects our health, compromises our immune systems. No, continuing the For-Profit system (which we did not have until the 1970’s!) will not fix such a thoroughly broken, corrupt system.

    Kimberly Graham has it right.

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