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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2014

Branstad ‘refuses to help’ Iowa’s needy

By Mary Jo Wilhelm | Mar 14, 2013

To the editor:

When asked about Iowans too poor to afford health insurance, Governor Branstad talks about health care savings accounts, increasing co-pays, and people drinking at open bars at weddings.

Governor, making health care more expensive won’t help people who can’t afford it in the first place.

Iowa’s governor has no idea what it is like to be unemployed or to work for the minimum wage.

He’s been on the state payroll almost all of his adult life. His family has never had to live without health insurance. Those are the facts.

While it’s not the governor’s fault that he has no idea what it is like to live in poverty, it is his fault when he refuses to help Iowans who do.

I wish Governor Branstad heard the testimony I’ve heard from Iowans living without insurance. One retired Iowa teacher broke down in tears while describing her adult daughter’s life without mental health care.

Governor Branstad doesn’t know these people. They aren’t foreign business investors. They aren’t campaign contributors. And they don’t live in fancy houses on the west side of Des Moines.

But these people are still Iowans and Governor Branstad is just as much their governor as the rich investors and business people that surround him.

Let me tell you the story of one of these people, someone I know very, very well.

As a young woman in her mid-twenties, she was going through a difficult time. She was getting divorced, and she didn’t have much money.

She lived in a small Iowa town. No matter how hard she tried, the only job she could find was a part time job.

She was able to make ends meet, but just barely. After paying for rent, gas, and groceries, there was nothing left.

Like many part time and full time Iowa jobs, her job did not include health insurance.

It happened that this young woman developed a medical problem.

It was a painful, painful problem. Repeated doctor visits, visits she paid for out of pocket, did not solve the problem. She needed to have an operation.

That operation cost $3,000. That’s a good chunk of money now, and it was a whole lot more back then.

So, this young woman put off having that operation. She lived and worked in pain for several, difficult months.

Finally, she saved enough money to afford the operation. She recovered, she got a full time job, she remarried, she had children, and eventually, she was elected to the Iowa Senate.

Yes, I was one of those people Governor Branstad feels free to laugh about. Some poor shlump living without health insurance.

There are tens of thousands of Mary Jo Wilhelms in Iowa right now, living without health insurance, each with their own story.

Some are in their twenties, some in their forties. Many are taking care of children. Most are working. Some have several jobs and still can’t afford health insurance.

Instead of talking about open bars, cash bars, the failure of DC politicians, Governor Branstad needs to start listening to Iowans.

Iowans that deserve to have access to affordable health care.

He’s the Governor of Iowa. We need him to start acting like it.

 

— Mary Jo Wilhelm, Iowa Senate District 26 and vice-chair of the Human Resources Committee

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