Addressing Iowa's health care challenges

Upmeyer column: With the first funnel in the rearview mirror, we have narrowed our scope for legislation. We spent a lot of time this week debating common sense bills on the House floor this week that provide additional funding for school's transpor-tation costs, protect Iowans from credit/debit card skim-ming, and reduce red tape for small businesses. It was an-other successful week in the Iowa House.

When talking to Iowans, one of the issues I hear about frequently is the cost of health care and the lack of certain providers in rural parts of the state. I've spoken with some folks have had to take out loans just to pay their health insurance premiums that cost over $40,000 this year. Io-wans deserve access to high quality health care at an afford-able price. This session, we are moving forward with two bills that will help us achieve that goal.

One of these proposals is a bill that allows qualifying or-ganizations to sell health bene-fit plans, providing Iowans with a lower cost alternative to traditional health insurance. These plans work similar to traditional health insurance, providing necessary coverage, but come at nearly half the cost. Farm Bureau would be able to offer these types of plans to their membership, which is available to all Iowans. Senator Waylon Brown is also working on an additional plan that would allow associations to pool together for health insurance.

Last year, Iowa made na-tional headlines when two of the three statewide health in-surance carriers announced that they would no longer be par-ticipating in the individual in-surance marketplace. This left 72,000 Iowans with just one choice for health insurance, and to make matter worse, premiums would be increasing by 43-56 percent.

In an effort to stabilize Io-wa's insurance market, our state Insurance Commissioner put together a temporary solu-tion, known as the "Stopgap Measure," that would have given Iowans an option for health coverage. This plan was required to receive federal ap-proval from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Ser-vices (CMS). Unfortunately, due to the inflexibility of Obamacare and the Feds, Iowa was forced to withdraw the Stopgap plan.

In my opening day speech to the Iowa House in January, I made it clear that it was time for us as a state to act in re-sponse to the Federal Govern-ment's rejection of the Stop-gap plan. I asked legislators to look for opportunities this session to provide Iowans with more health options at an af-fordable price. Health benefit plans are an example of a state-based solution to provide Io-wans another option for health coverage.

Another health bill that we are looking at this session is a bill that deals with "telehealth." This will make Iowans healthier by ensuring more access to essential health care services in rural areas of the state.

Many rural parts of Iowa have limited access to a doctor and other important health services. Faced with these barriers, some Iowans have a hard time getting the care they need due to having to travel long distances. One solution to this problem is the expan-sion of telehealth services, which would allow an Iowan to speak with, visually see, and be treated by a doctor using audio/ visual technology. Our bill expands insurance coverage so that telehealth care is covered by health insurance, just like health insurance would cover a face to face visit between a patient and their healthcare professional. This will expand access to both physical and mental healthcare services and providers.

We are also continuing to monitor the Medicaid program and are working on legislation to increase access to mental healthcare. These are two top-ics that many Iowans are inter-ested in addressing this ses-sion, so I will I will touch on these subjects in more detail in future newsletters.

P.S.: I wanted to make sure and let local parents and school officials know about the World Food Prize's Iowa Youth Institute program. This is a wonderful opportunity for students that are interested in STEM subjects to learn more about the related fields.

Participating students are eligible for a $500 scholarship to attend Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. For more information, visit the World Food Prize's website.

As always, please keep in touch. As legislation moves forward, feel free to send me comments, questions or feedback that you may have regarding issues before us in the House. I can be reached at or 515-281-3521.