Citizens urge Republicans to have plan in place before repealing the Affordable Care Act
BY ED TIBBETTS
DAVENPORT – Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would be a mistake, people who say they’ve benefited from or seen the advantages of the law said Thursday in Davenport.
At a news conference at Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park, a number of people urged Republicans, especially Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, to have a plan in place before gutting the law. The event was organized by Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based health care group that supports the law.
“My biggest concern is repeal without replacement,” said Steve Mielenhausen, principal of Madison Elementary School, who said students learn best when their parents have basic needs, like insurance, in place.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate this week began taking steps to repeal the controversial law. However, it isn’t clear yet how they might replace it -- or when.
Shelley Sheehy, a Davenport woman who survived a pulmonary embolism, urged Iowa’s two senators to show her an alternative first. “I want to see it in writing,” she said.
Sheehy is worried that the Affordable Care Act’s prohibitions against denying coverage because of a pre-existing health condition might be lost when the law is repealed.
Several congressional Republicans, and President-elect Donald Trump, have said they like that provision, but they have not yet put forward a replacement plan.
Ezra Sidran, a research scientist from Davenport, said Thursday that he could not get insurance coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition in 2013 and was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening blood disease. He said that he was able to sign up for coverage through the law in 2014 and got treated. “I am alive today because of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
As the debate plays out, the law’s supporters have pointed to what would be lost with a repeal. Families USA, citing an Urban Institute study, said by 2019, 230,000 Iowans would lose coverage under a repeal. The figure is based on the estimated impact from a 2016 Republican bill that President Barack Obama vetoed. It includes people who would lose marketplace subsidies and assumes those who gained coverage due to an expanded Medicaid program would lose it.
The uninsured rate in Iowa has dropped sharply since the insurance marketplaces opened in 2014. In 2015, just 5 percent of Iowans were uninsured, according to federal data. However, the last few years also have seen big spikes in premium costs. On average, premium costs for Affordable Care Act policies — which affect people on the individual market and not those who get coverage through their employers — are up 25 percent across the country this year.
That has caused consternation among people who don’t get subsidies to limit the impact from the increases. And Republican critics of the law have focused more on those increases, arguing the law is not working.
In a statement, Grassley responded that people have been hurt by the law, and that even Democrats believe it needs fixed.
“Replacing it needs to be done thoughtfully over time, so people will not be left without health care. We need to consider what matters to people and what works for everybody. People want health care choices that they can afford, that they can control, and that will provide them with what they need,” he said.