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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 17, 2017

Grassley ‘very pessimistic’ about passage of health care bill

Jul 07, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Mt.  Pleasant) visited the Mt. Pleasant Noon Rotary Club Thursday, fielding questions from Rotarians concerning numerous topics. Grassley, since assuming his Senate office 37 years ago, has made it a priority to visit all 99 Iowa counties annually.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News

 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wasn’t overly optimistic about the passage of a health care bill June 30 when he left Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Independence Day recess.

Six days later, Grassley’s sentiments have not changed.

“I am very pessimistic,” Grassley said when asked about the chances of a health care bill surviving the Senate. “I am sure Schumer (U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York, the senate minority leader) is telling his people not to go along with the Republicans.”

Grassley made his remarks during a Thursday visit to the Mt. Pleasant Noon Rotary Club at Iowa Wesleyan University as part of his annual 99-county visit in Iowa.

Originally, the Senate was to have voted on the bill before the holiday recess, and Grassley said he was hoping the vote would have occurred. The decision to delay the vote was a parliamentary one, he said, adding that the Republicans didn’t have enough votes needed to pass the bill. “We probably only had 45 votes (in favor of the bill which needs 51 affirmative votes for passage). “We felt that changes could be made (lobbying Senators opposing the bill to consider a change of heart) and hopefully, changes are being worked on. But I am not very optimistic.”

Grassley said much about the bill still is up in the air. “If you ask about health care, don’t expect a definitive answer,” he told Rotarians at the beginning of the queston-and-answer session. “I don’t think any Senator can give you a definitive answer.”

The 83-year-old Senator said if Obamacare cannot be overhauled, he, at the least, is hoping for some tweaks. “There are 72,000 Iowans who won’t be able to get (health) insurance in 2018. Many people have had to change their doctor and insurance company when they were told they could keep them. I also know of people who have $15,000 deductibles on their health-insurance policy and are still paying well over $10,000 a year in premiums.

“The simple reason (for attempting to pass a new health-care bill) is that we know something has to be done,” he added. “The problem with Obamacare is that it was supposed to provide universal health care and 29 million people don’t have health insurance. If changes had been made, correcting the flaws of Obamacare, we probably would’t be doing this (attempting to pass a new health-care bill).”

He said that Obamacare has a two-year sunset clause, meaning if it were repealed, there would be two years to replace it. “If it were repealed, it would force Congress to do something instead of dancing around the issue.”

Grassley also added that Congress, upon repeal of Obamacare, would probably appropriate a $7-$8 billion subsidy to help Americans with their health-insurance deductibles and copays.

Henry County Health Center CEO Robb Gardner urged Grassley to “protect Medicaid as much as you can.” Gardner said HCHC has lost $800,000 in revenue over the past few years despite performing the same volume of service to Medicaid recipients. “If you could keep Medicaid for those who didn’t have it, I would appreciate it.”

Noting that Iowa was the last state in the union to privatize Medicaid, Grassley said Iowa caught a break in recent Medicaid legislation. “The first proposal was to use 2016 as the benchmark (for federal funding) and that would have been catastrophic to Iowa (that’s when Iowa’s Medicaid system was privatized). Now, it looks like they are going to use four quarters from the years 2014-17 as the benchmark.”

State Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mt. Pleasant, a leader on health care in the Iowa Legislature said he’s worried about the future of Medicaid. “Eighty percent of Medicaid is going to the poor and disabled,” Heaton stated. “We made mistakes by basing the privatization (costs) on the past year. I am worried about access to Medicaid. If we have federal reductions on top of privatization, we will be in big trouble.”

Health care wasn’t the “Lone Ranger” as far as discussion topics Thursday. Grassley was asked his thoughts on the North Korea situation. He said his first choice would be sanctions instead of military action, but said the latter could not be ruled out.

“What you do almost has to be non-military, but that isn’t a sure thing,” he commented. “Even if we destroyed some of North Korea’s infrastructure and military technology, they would turn on Seoul (South Korea) which is only 30 miles away.”

The Senator said he felt the Trump administration was relying too much on China. “The president is probably disappointed China didn’t do as much as they said they would do. I think we should work with (economic) sanctions through the banks.”

President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will be meeting soon at a European Summit. Questioned about what he thinks Trump should say to Putin, Grassley was quick to respond. “I would tell him that I am sick and tired of you messing with our elections.

“I wish Trump would stop saying there is some question whether Russia interfered,” Grassley continued. “We have CIA reports that they did. Russia does this because they want Americans to be cynical and lose trust in democracy.”

Asked about tax reform, the senator said Congress hopes to have something in place by Christmas.

Grassley has made it a priority during his 37-year Senate career to visit each Iowa County every year. He said the meetings are very beneficial “because it helps me to inform my staff on what people in Iowa are thinking.”

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