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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Iowa Republicans vote to replace Obamacare

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad City Times | May 08, 2017

After days of uncertainty, all of Iowa's Republican House members voted with their party Thursday on a measure to repeal and replace the 7-year-old Affordable Care Act.

There was really no doubt the state's lone Democrat, Rep. Dave Loebsack, would vote against it. But Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, hadn't tipped his hand on what he would do, and Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, was on some lists as opposing the legislation.

In the end, Blum and Young — and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa — all voted for the bill, which passed on a 217-213 vote. It now goes to the Senate, where some reports say that members there intend to draft their own legislation.

In a statement after the vote, Blum pointed to the exit of insurers from Iowa's marketplace, saying "it's clear something needs to be done." Blum joined other Republicans to celebrate the vote at a White House event hosted by President Donald Trump.

Blum said the bill will stabilize Iowa's market and increase choices.

"After years of higher costs, fewer choices and broken promises under Obamacare, it's time to enact a better system that actually works for Americans," he said.

The House's vote comes at a precarious time for Iowa's marketplace. About a month ago, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Aetna both announced they wouldn't take part in the exchange for 2018. And just this week, the last statewide insurer, Medica, warned that it may not be able to take part either.

Democrats warned the bill would be catastrophic for Iowans. Loebsack, in a statement, said the legislation jeopardizes the health care of 171,000 residents and "opens the door to eliminating the guarantee that pre-existing conditions will be covered for 1.3 million Iowans."

The Republican legislation requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but it also allows states to let insurance companies charge people more based on their health status. The current law doesn't allow that, and some critics worry it will price people with illnesses out of the insurance market.

In Illinois, Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, said, "Washington Republicans turned their backs on millions of Americans." She said the bill would kill jobs and "undermine health and economic security for millions."

Thursday's vote comes just weeks after an initial attempt to get a replacement failed in the House, and the GOP didn't even bring it up for a vote.

This time, Republicans worked furiously to get their members on board, including making some changes in the legislation. In March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 24 million would lose coverage over 10 years under the bill but that it also would lower deficits by $337 billion.

In a tweet after the vote, King said he and former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., wrote the first Obamacare repeal bills seven years ago.

"Her finger joined mine today to push my vote button to dismantle," King tweeted.

In his own statement, Young acknowledged he had doubts about the bill. But he said he voted for it after changes were made that he said would lower costs for people with pre-existing health conditions.

Republicans in recent days have agreed to add money to high-risk insurance pools, which are aimed at covering the cost of sicker individuals. They say that will provide protections to people high health care costs, as well as help insurers. Democrats and other critics say the funding is inadequate.

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