Iowa med industry has mixed feelings on AHCA passage

Published: May. 4, 2017 at 5:05 PM CDT
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Iowa's medical industry has mixed feelings on the passage of the GOP's American Health Care Act, which aims to repeal and replace "Obamacare," formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

US House Republicans passed the AHCA with only one vote to spare, 217 to 213. Twenty GOP congressmen voted against the act, as did every Democrat.

The Iowa Insurance Division, which regulates and supervises all insurance business done in the state, said the approval of the AHCA was a "vote to fix to the Affordable Care Act."

"The ACA has created a situation where insurers are leaving individual health markets across the country," said Chance McElhaney, Communications Director for the Iowa Insurance Division, in a statement. "This is causing significant angst among Iowa consumers that depend on the individual health market for their health coverage."

McElhaney's comments come one day after the last carrier of individual health insurance policies in most of Iowa announced it might stop offering them to residents.

Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Medica said Wednesday its ability to stay in the Iowa insurance market "is in question at this point."

The company echoed statements by two larger carriers that already have announced intentions to leave the market: Aetna and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield. All three cited instability in the market because of concerns about the Affordable Care Act.

The exits could leave an estimated 70,000 Iowans who buy their own coverage without any options next year.

McElhaney went on to say the state's individual health insurance market currently "is unaffordable and unsustainable." He said the "federal problem" created by the ACA needs to be "fixed by Congress."

The Iowa Hospital Association took a different tone in its statement on the AHCA's passage. Kirk Norris, president of the group, said the association and its 118 community hospitals were "disappointed" with the vote.

"Nearly 200,000 Iowans have coverage under current law, enabling them to get the health care they need, when and where they need it," said Norris. "AHCA would eliminate coverage for tens of thousands of Iowans and possibly jeopardize coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. Even employer-based coverage is threatened by language in this bill."

Norris worried that the bill, if enacted, would "repeal enhanced federal funding for Iowa’s expanded Medicaid coverage" capping federal dollars for the program and putting more of a strain on Iowa's finances.

"The US Senate should not rush the legislative process on this flawed proposal or on any measure aimed at repealing and replacing ACA," said Norris, "but instead take all the necessary time and deliberation to make needed changes that ensure meaningful and affordable health care coverage for thousands of Iowans."

The AHCA faces an uncertain future in the US Senate. Both of Iowa's GOP senators didn't weigh in on how they'd vote. Senator Joni Ernst said she'd need to first review the bill before commenting further. Senator Chuck Grassley said, in a statement, he would like to see "bipartisan support."

"Obamacare didn’t achieve that," said Grassley. "My staff and I have been talking with patient advocates and insurers in Iowa, as well as the Iowa insurance commissioner and the governor’s office, about all of the considerations to take into account. Their insight is important as the Senate works on a bill that helps make health care more affordable and more accessible for Iowans and other Americans.”