Iowa Voices: Rural health care crisis exists in Iowa

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Keynote speaker State Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, answers a question at Thursday’s Rural Health Care Crisis event at the Marshalltown Public Library.

From the high cost of insulin to the closing of maternity wards to workforce shortages of doctors and nurses, a rural health care crisis exists in Iowa.

And it will only become worse if the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Therefore, keeping the ACA is a top priority of four public interest groups who sponsored Rural Health Care Crisis: The State of Rural Health Care Access in Iowa forum Thursday at the Marshalltown Public Library.

Iowa Voices, the Iowa Citizens Action Network, Indivisible Iowa and Progress Iowa united and brought in State Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, as keynote speaker.

Smith is in his 10th two-year term.

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY The high cost of health care across the board was a major concern of retiree Conrad DeJardin of Marshalltown. He commented at Thursday’s Rural Health Care Crisis event at the Marshalltown Public Library.

He has been a strong proponent for easier access to health care and mental health care during his tenure.

Successfully addressing health care issues such as the high cost of prescription drugs to doctor and nurse shortages would be the key,” Smith said. “There is no issue that Iowans care more about or that motivates them to turn out and vote than health care,” Smith said. “Simply put, Iowa voters are health care voters.”

Smith said the 2020 U.S. Senate race is pivotal.

“The choice is clear,” he said. “We can elect a new senator who will fight to insure that every Iowan has the right to affordable health care in their community and will protect their rights to make their health care decisions. Or, we can resign our health care to the third most unpopular senator in the United States — Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who has spent the last five years working in concert with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., and special interests voting time and again to take away our health care. These votes to take health care away from women, seniors and workers are the defining issues in Ernst’s political career.”

However, in a guest column in the Feb. 18 Cedar Rapids Gazette, Ernst explained her efforts to hold down the cost of prescription medications:

“This issue hits close to home for me: I’ve got a sister and brother who both need insulin for their Type 1 diabetes. But it’s not just my family. So many Iowans across the state need Congress to do something. Our families shouldn’t have to choose between making a mortgage payment and actually purchasing and utilizing lifesaving prescriptions.

Addressing these growing costs has been a top priority for me. Over the last year, I’ve worked across the aisle toward solutions to increase competition and drive down costs, and close the loopholes We also need to ensure that researchers can keep creating new and lifesaving drugs. These much-needed reforms are critical to making health care more affordable for Iowans.

One of the bipartisan bills I supported, the CREATES Act, was passed successfully by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump. This bipartisan legislation, which is now law, is designed to help drive down costs by increasing competition in the marketplace. The CREATES Act prevents brand-name pharmaceutical and biologic companies from purposely stifling competition by blocking the entry of lower-cost generic drugs into the market.

Sen. Grassley, joined by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, is leading a bipartisan proposal, called the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, to go after these skyrocketing prices.”

Twenty-one residents listened to Smith’s remarks and the state representative then listened to their comments.

“I am extremely concerned about the high cost of health care across the board, and the cost of insulin specifically,” Conrad DeJardin of Marshalltown and a retired educator said. “Pharmaceutical companies are getting rich. Another issue I have is the amount of paperwork required, but I suppose that is necessary to maintain a good health care system. And I think government does have a role to play in health care … Republicans seem to think government does not have a role.”

Smith said the cost of prescriptions and especially insulin, are making some Iowans pick medications over putting food on the table or paying their mortgage.

“Or, he said, they are cutting back on the amount of insulin they are taking to make it last longer,” that is the one we hear the most about.”

One woman who identified herself only as a licensed practical nurse, said the time commitment and high cost of education to be a registered nurse was holding her, and others back.

“We know there is a strong demand for nurses, but the cost of education and taking out school loans while we are raising families is prohibitive,” she said.

Iowa Voices is an issue advocacy, education-focused organization that communicates with Iowans on key issues.

For more information contact Iowa Voices at 202-915-9462 nor visit Iowa voices.org/join

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com


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