State Solutions to Make Health Care Affordable
A topic on the minds of many Iowans and Americans as a whole is the issue of health care. In Iowa, we spent a lot of time addressing many of the health care challenges that our state faced. During this year’s legislative session, we passed comprehensive mental health reform, tackled the growing opioid crisis and expanded access to health care services in rural areas of the state. These are all very important topics, but there is another topic that we consistently hear about from our constituents – the need to make health care more affordable.
A few months back, I wrote a column about Iowa’s health insurance market being in real trouble. We were a prime example of the failure of Obamacare which devastated our market, making coverage unaffordable for thousands of Iowans and decreasing choice for consumers. At this time, competition was limited to a single insurance carrier and they were planning dramatic premium increases the following year.
In response, Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner developed a plan to stabilize the market, but inflexible rules at the federal level doomed the plan and it was ultimately withdrawn. Iowans had no choice, yet they were expected to pay for a health plan they often couldn’t afford.
Before our legislative session began in January, I was hearing stories about Iowans who were forced to take out loans from the bank to pay for their health insurance. The individuals who don’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies, including farmers, families and self-employed folks, were facing steep premiums between $30-40,000. They had to make the difficult decision to go without coverage or go broke.
We knew that we had to find some sort of state-level solution to this problem. That started with providing Iowans with new affordable choices in our healthcare market.
The solution we ultimately came up with was the creation of a new product called a Health Benefit Plan. These plans function similarly to pre-Obamacare insurance, offering a baseline of coverage without all the mandates, so the cost is significantly less than traditional insurance. These plans would be offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau and administered through Wellmark, a partnership that has been in existence for decades.
Full details of the plans haven’t been released yet, but I anticipate that once they become available, many Iowans will enroll and be satisfied with this new option.
Our state-based solutions will provide tens of thousands of Iowans with high-quality health coverage at an affordable price, something that is severely lacking under Obamacare. This may not be the right approach for every single state, but surely it’s an idea that other states can and should try.
Ultimately, the issue of health care is something that the Federal Government must address. I am disappointed that Washington has been unable to reach some sort of solution that helps Americans afford the health coverage that they need. I am hopeful that eventually they can provide states with more flexibility and avoid the type of one-size-fits-all approach that clearly didn’t work for Iowa.