Healthcare woes reach Iowa

It’s time for Congress to get to work on a fix

Huge changes in our nation’s health insurance system were enacted when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare.

From the beginning, this legislation has been strongly opposed by virtually all Republican federal officeholders. A call for its repeal and replacement was a major theme of Donald Trump as he campaigned for the presidency and of GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives all across America.

With Trump now in the White House and Republicans in the majority of both houses of Congress the way should be clear for the Republican Party to deliver on the repeal-and-replace promise. Unfortunately, that is not proving to be the case.

The first attempt to do so stalled because Republicans could not agree on what replacement legislation would look like. That is especially disappointing because the GOP has had fully seven years since Obamacare became law to reach agreement on an alternative.

The flaws in the ACA are many. Too few insurance companies are offering products for consumers under this system. The premiums people not eligible for subsidies are being asked to pay are high and increasing. The deductibles are so high that most purchasers gain little benefit from the insurance unless they have a hugely expensive illness.

President Trump has said that unless Congress agrees on a replacement for Obamacare, the system will self-destruct in the immediate future. We in Iowa have seen this month that there is more than a little truth in that claim.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced on April 3 that it will not sell or renew individual and family Affordable Care Act plans in the Hawkeye State after Dec. 31. That means about 21,400 Wellmark plan members will have to find an insurance alternative. At this point only two other carriers — Aetna and Medica — offer such plans in our state. So far, neither company has committed to remaining here after this year.

“We are very concerned about this development, but Iowa is not alone as ACA markets around the country are being left with few to no options available to consumers,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said on April 3. “It’s concerning given that Iowa has now had two carriers leave the ACA’s individual health insurance market. We will continue looking for ways to protect Iowa consumers.”

Most people get health insurance through their employers but for the segment of our population that must buy individual insurance this development is potentially a devastating crisis.

This is a local reminder that Obamacare has major problems all across America. It’s time for Congress to get serious about fixing this law. Whether one calls the fix “repeal and replacement” or something else, it is high time that our lawmakers get to work on finding a way for health insurance to be available and affordable for everyone.

Sadly, instead of doing their job, our federal lawmakers are about to take two weeks off for an Easter recess. Instead, they should stay in Washington and do their job.