Joni Ernst: Actions to take now on health care

As Published In: The Quad-City Times

As I’ve crisscrossed the state on my annual 99-county tour, I’ve met and had conversations with countless Iowans. And, whether I’m at my town halls, a small business tour, or nearly any other visit, one of the key issues folks want to talk about is health care.

Specifically, across the board, Iowans are clear: they want lower costs, they want to ensure we’re protecting those with preexisting conditions, and they want choice in deciding what the best fit is for them and their family.

I couldn’t agree more.

It can be distressing having a family member or a close friend in need of access to critical medications or living with an illness. Most of us do. Some members of my family live with Type 1 Diabetes. I also have a nephew with autism. Both conditions are commonly described as preexisting conditions. And many families, like mine, are facing ever-increasing prices for their vital prescriptions.

Congress has wrestled with which approach is best to modernize our nation’s health care system and to address the rising costs Iowans are facing. At times, the debate has been heated, as a huge array of ideas from across the spectrum have been fiercely discussed.

These conversations are an important part of getting to the right solutions. But, as these debates continue, I want to make sure any proposal, or series of proposals, includes three major components.

First, we need to address the rising costs of health care, particularly when it comes to prescription drugs. On this front, I’m continuing to fight on behalf of Iowans to put the patient first by closing loopholes, increasing competition in the marketplace, and driving down out of pocket costs. I’m pleased three of my bills to address these issues have already made progress advancing in the Senate, and with bipartisan support. It’s time we get these bills across the finish line and lower costs for folks across our state.

Second, we must ensure protections for those with preexisting conditions — like my nephew with autism, and my brother and my sister who both have Type 1 diabetes — regardless of how policies may change at the federal level. No American should have to worry about being denied health insurance, nor being discriminated against, due to their battle with cancer, diabetes or other challenging preexisting health conditions. Congress should waste no time in passing legislation, such as the Protect Act that I’ve cosponsored, to clearly and explicitly ensure there are protections in place for those with preexisting conditions — no matter what. Let’s act now on simple and straightforward legislation to do so.

Lastly, your healthcare should be unique to you and the needs of your family. We need to make sure changes at the federal level aren’t forcing individuals into policies they don’t want or can’t afford. When lawmakers discuss ways forward on health care, we need to take a thoughtful and careful approach that maintains robust options for individuals who know what’s best for their own needs and circumstances.

Iowans have told me time and again they want to see Congress act to fix our health care system and provide a vision for the future. We need to lower costs, ensure protections for those with pre-existing conditions and provide choice for families to make the decisions best suited for them.

As debates on health care continue, there are actions we can take right away to deliver for Iowa families — Congress just needs to step up to the plate and be willing to put some skin in the game. I stand ready to do just that.

To read the senator's op-ed in the Quad-City Times, click here.