A group of statehouse Democrats is proposing a dollar increase in the state tax on cigarettes to raise enough money to pay for ensuring every Iowan has health care coverage. Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, is one of the Democrats who spoke at Wednesday afternoon a news conference at the statehouse.
“Governor Vilsack stated that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve universal health care,” Hatch said. “Today, we are here to acknowledge that challenge and introduce the ‘Affordable Health Care for Families and Small Business Act.'” The bill would allow more low income families and disabled Iowans to qualify for government-paid health care through Medicaid.
Hatch and the other dozen Democrats who’ve joined the effort also propose a subsidies for small businesses to help cover the cost of health insurance premiums. Hatch claims that over 280-thousand Iowans lack “health care security.”We cannot reach universal health care without a large infusion of public dollars,” Hatch said. The one-dollar-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax would generate up to 135-million dollars annually according to Hatch. “If we don’t do (raise the cigarette tax), then it is going to be very difficult to find the money elsewhere,” Hatch said.
Representative Ro Foege, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, argues that the State of Iowa would end up saving money if state government puts up the cash to ensure every Iowa citizen has health care benefits.
“We’ve waited for the federal government to do this. We can’t wait any longer,” Foege says. “It’s too expensive the way we’re doing it. We no longer can afford to have people who are without health insurance ending up in the emergency rooms. That costs us more money than if we had everybody insured.”