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Ernst: Health Care Status Quo Unsustainable in Iowa

“No choice and a proposed 43 percent increase in premiums. That is what ObamaCare and its harmful impact will bring to Iowa in 2018.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today spoke on the Senate floor about the unsustainable and unaffordable health care system under ObamaCare.

Click here or the image below to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.

The following is the full text of Senator Ernst’s remarks:

Mr. President,

No choice and a proposed 43 percent increase in premiums. That is what ObamaCare and its harmful impact will bring to Iowa in 2018.

This year, it brought premium increases up to 42 percent. Last year, it brought increases up to 29 percent.

ObamaCare is not sustainable and not affordable for Iowans.

To anybody that has studied health care reform, this should come as no surprise. In the past, many states have tried to reform their individual market. Twenty-seven years ago, Kentucky made an attempt and implemented the Kentucky Health Care Reform Act of 1994.

This bill was similar to ObamaCare in many respects – it contained more taxes, more regulations, and more mandates.

Within three years, three years, insurers fled the individual market and the state was hit with skyrocketing premiums.

What happened in Kentucky then is eerily similar to what is happening in Iowa today as a result of ObamaCare.

When it comes to affordability and choice, my home state of Iowa has been hit particularly hard.

While traveling across the state, I hear from Iowans who are looking for affordable coverage. Far too often, I hear that high monthly premiums are squeezing pocketbooks, and that soaring out of pocket costs like deductibles and copays make coverage unaffordable to use for those who do have it.

That’s not what ObamaCare promised, but that is what it has brought.

One Iowan who works at a small business in Hinton wrote me and said:

“Over the past seven years prices have jumped considerably and the coverage employees are getting for the amount of money spent is substantially less! We have tried to help our employees by minimizing the changes in premiums, but these last two years we had to start passing on some of the increases in order to survive. We can no longer absorb the constant rate increases, nor can we not offer a health plan to our employees. Therefore we find ourselves between the proverbial rock and the hard place. We certainly are not the only small business facing the same dilemma.”

Employees at this small business can breathe a small sigh of relief because their employer still has the ability to offer coverage - even if they are forced to pay more and more because of ObamaCare. Other Iowans are on the edge because their options for coverage are shrinking. 

In 2016, United Healthcare left the individual market in Iowa.

A few months ago, Wellmark and Aetna both announced they would be leaving the individual market in 2018.

Medica is the only remaining statewide carrier, and while they appear to be staying for next year, it will take a massive rate increase on Iowans for them to do so.

The Iowa Insurance Commissioner said that:

“Iowa has hit a point within our market's collapse that a 43 percent rate increase will drive healthier, younger, and middle aged individuals out of the market. Iowa's individual market remains unsustainable.”

And if Medica leaves after next year, there is a very real possibility that tens of thousands of Iowans will have nothing to purchase on the individual market.

To put this issue into perspective, and show why it matters so much, I want to share concerns I received from a constituent in Ames, Iowa.

This constituent is the parent of a child with a rare disease. The family purchased a plan from Wellmark to cover the child for 2017, but now that Wellmark plans to leave, the parents are unsure whether they will be able to find a plan for their child.

They find this whole experience “disruptive and anxiety provoking.”

Disruption and anxiety are not just being felt in Iowa. All across the country, premiums are skyrocketing and choices are limited and in some places, non-existent.

Recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that 2.4 million people in twelve hundred counties across the country will have one, one option for insurance in 2018. That’s not an option at all.

And a recent report by HHS found that between 2013 and 2017, premiums more than doubled on the exchange. More than doubled on the exchange. In some states, premiums tripled.

Across the country and in my home state of Iowa, we don’t have the option to continue with the status quo when it comes to our health care.

The reality folks is the status quo is truly unsustainable.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.