Now that Iowa’s abandoned its so-called stop-gap effort to cut health insurance premium costs, both of Iowa’s U.S. senators are among the dozen Republicans supporting a bipartisan bid in the Senate to prop up the nation’s ailing individual insurance market.
Senator Joni Ernst says the bill will hopefully limit 2018 premium increases for 72,000 Iowans who buy individual health insurance policies.
“I am willing to look at whatever is presented to find a pathway forward for Iowans. We are running out of time. There is no doubt about it,” Ernst said. “…I do understand the frustrations that exist out there and, believe me, that’s why I am trying to get a bipartisan plan through. Hopefully it will provide some sort relief for those Iowans.”
Ernst made her comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television. Today, during a conference call with Iowa reporters, Senator Chuck Grassley said the plan would accomplish two major things.
Grassley says, “One would legally put money into the insurance companies to lower premiums for people that are under the poverty level by 250% and give them help with co-pays and high deductibles.” There are tens of thousands of people just in Iowa, Grassley says, who could use this financial boost to pay for their health insurance premiums.
“That is something that Obama did but the courts said he didn’t have the authority to do it,” Grassley says. “The president wants to abide by the law that he took an oath to uphold so he’s not going to continue what Obama did because the courts said it was illegal so he wants Congress to enact this.” The other main goal of the legislation, according to Grassley, is to make it easier for states to get a waiver from the federal government, something Iowa was just forced to table. Grassley, Ernst and 10 other Republicans, along with a dozen Democrats, are backing the bill. Ernst calls it a “short term fix.”
“Which isn’t a perfect plan, but it allows the states greater flexibility. It allows those co-sharing payments to continue,” Ernst said. “We have to look beyond that and that means we are going to have to work on finding a much more long-term, permanent solution.”
Earlier this month, President Trump announced the end of cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. The payments are part of the Affordable Care Act, designed to cover some of the costs of insurance policies for the sickest Americans.
Trump has given mixed signals about the bipartisan bill pending in the Senate that would continue those payments, but Ernst says Trump is likely to sign it if Congress can pass it. And she says the bill will hopefully limit 2018 premium increases for 72,000 Iowans who buy individual health insurance policies.
Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley also contributed to this story.