When Jennifer Jensen was diagnosed with a chronic reproductive system disease, she thought she would never be able to have children, and if she could, it would be an expensive and painful process to try and get pregnant.
But with the care and attention of a supportive medical team in Iowa, Jensen, who lives in Johnston, was able to avoid invasive procedures and gave birth to two children.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), however, a disease she unknowingly has had her whole life, continues to dictate her health care decisions.
Within her circle of friends and family, Jensen said health care “absolutely” is an important issue for them when deciding which politicians to support. She doesn’t consider herself “terribly politically active,” but is unafraid to advocate for causes that are “very close to my heart.”
“I try my best to live my values and I truly and honestly believe that no person should ever have to make the choice between living and dying, and that’s what the insurance industry makes humans do in the U.S. on a daily basis,” Jensen, 32, said.
Health care concerns, even among young and healthy Iowans, have been magnified amid the coronavirus pandemic. Not only are people worried about contracting the highly infectious disease, the ensuing recession has left tens of thousands of people jobless in the state and at risk of losing their employer-provided health insurance.
“I feel a lot of despair and a lot of hopelessness from so many people,” Jensen said, “and I am not immune to that. It’s very much a situation of, what can we possibly do?”
“I think what everybody has to keep in mind,” she said, “is that you have to be invested in order to make a change.”
Jensen has made that investment in her own life, tracking her diet, exercise and supplements to help manage PCOS as best she can. She has educated herself on the often undiagnosed reproductive conditions women face, such as endometriosis, and became a doula in order to support women before, during and after pregnancy.
It’s that type of commitment to change that she believes also needs to be applied when selecting political leaders this fall.
“When we elect somebody, their job is to care about their constituents, whether or not they voted for them,” Jensen said. “It’s their job to care and they don’t, sometimes, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. We can make the change, we just have to put in the effort to make that change.”
Jensen recently was featured in an ad for Iowa Forward, a progressive advocacy organization, running a series of ads focused on Sen. Joni Ernst and her health care votes.
“Joni Ernst — she voted to allow insurance companies to discriminate against people like me who have preexisting health conditions,” Jensen says in the 30-second ad. “I hope people will tell Joni Ernst to protect Iowans, and not to protect the insurance industry.”
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.
In an effort to reassure voters that Republicans want insurance companies to cover individuals with preexisting health conditions, Ernst in 2018 signed onto the GOP’s “Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act.” The bill provides cover for Republicans concerned about defending past health care votes, but it does not guarantee the same level of preexisting conditions coverage as mandated in the Affordable Care Act. Unlike the ACA, Republicans’ proposed legislation does not lay out services companies must cover in their insurance plans. In Mitch McConnell’s GOP-controlled Senate, the bill went nowhere.
The Washington Post Fact Checker recently examined the claims of several U.S. senators in tough reelection contests who say they support health insurance protections for Americans with preexisting conditions. The article focused on statements from Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Martha McSally of Arizona and Cory Gardner of Colorado, though Ernst has made similar promises.
“Just like President Trump, these Republican senators say they support coverage guarantees for patients with preexisting health conditions,” The Washington Post reported. “And just like Trump, their records show the opposite.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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