Growing up in a working-class family in Davenport, my parents were forced to make impossible decisions when it came to health care. A trip to the doctor or the emergency room likely meant they would fall behind on the mortgage, the electric bill, or even their ability to put food on the table. As a father of three now, I can’t imagine the constant anxiety they felt as they tried to provide for their family even as they worked harder and harder each year, usually for less and less.
More likely than not, every Iowan knows a neighbor, friend, or family member who has been in a similar position. Living in rural Iowa, I have seen firsthand the hardship that a lack of access to healthcare causes families. No matter where you live, no matter who you are, no matter how much money you make – every Iowan should have quality, affordable healthcare. Period.
The reality of healthcare in America over the past several decades is that it has been harder for people to get the care they need and deserve. Costs have skyrocketed. Insurance costs have gone up. These costs have taken money out of the pockets of hard-working Iowa families and made it more difficult for them to make ends meet.
In the past several years, there has been some level of progress. Millions of Americans gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Millions more received coverage for preexisting conditions, which wasn’t the case even ten years ago. Yet, at every turn, insurance companies place new obstacles to receiving coverage, create more complicated processes that deny necessary coverage, and continually prioritize their financial bottom line over the lives of their members.
Private insurance companies have every right to operate and offer healthcare plans. But they should not have the right to operate free from competition. In Iowa today, one health insurance company, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, dominates the marketplace. In 2015, their total revenues were more than $2.5 billion, and they have continually increased rates on their members year after year. They do so because there are no real choices for Iowans or meaningful competition in this marketplace.
This is made all the more difficult by the GOP healthcare plan that will take away health insurance for millions across the country – especially the forgotten Iowans in towns like mine that are being left behind by the GOP agenda.
It’s time for that to end. It’s time for Medicaid for All.
If I am elected governor, I will give Iowans a real choice in their healthcare by creating a Medicaid for All program here in the state. Under this initiative, individuals who do not have access to insurance or are dissatisfied with their current health care plan will be allowed to buy into Medicaid. This type of public option will deliver more choices for Iowans and real competition across the state, delivering higher-quality health care at more competitive costs.
Now, this is not a radical idea. The Nevada legislature just passed a similar program, and I applaud my legislative colleagues Sen. Matt McCoy and Rep. John Forbes who have also proposed a plan to achieve this goal. But to do this, we must and will abandon Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds’ reckless privatization of the state’s Medicaid program that has put providers out of business and undermined the healthcare of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Medicaid for All is an extraordinary opportunity to make the health care system work for all Iowans and not just insurance companies operating in the state. It will give parents peace of mind that their kids will get the care they need to grow and thrive into adulthood. It will give my neighbors in Charles City more confidence that they will not have to choose between medical procedures and bankruptcy. And more competition will help costs remain stable, keeping money in the pockets of hard-working Iowans across all 99 counties.