Affordable health care and tax relief for Iowans

Upmeyer Column: We are nearing the 100th day of session, which means budget, and tax issues have been getting the most attention in recent days. Most of the legislators who are farmers back home are becoming anxious to get out into the fields and begin planting. This is always a good sign that the legislative session is reaching its conclusion!

Health care continues to be a significant topic of interest to many Iowans and in the Iowa House we have been looking for opportunities to address the challenges that Iowans face. We have already tackled mental health reform, continued efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and advanced measures to ensure accountability and oversight in the state’s Medicaid program.

Another critical health care issue that we have been working to address is access to high quality, affordable health care. Obamacare, leading to skyrocketing premiums and no choice in coverage, has left behind countless Iowans. Over the last several months, I have heard stories from many Iowans who have been forced to borrow money and go into debt to afford their health coverage. This is a major concern for Iowans, including families, small business owners, and farmers.

On Monday, Gov. Reynolds signed Senate File 2349 which will provide many Iowans with new options for high quality, affordable health care. This legislation has two main functions that will provide relief to Iowans.

The bill creates association health plans that will allow groups to band together to offer group insurance policies. This is especially important to small businesses and self-employed individuals who will now be able to form a larger risk pool and decrease costs. Another aspect of the bill is the creation of Health Benefit Plans, which Iowans can purchase for health coverage. These plans function similar to pre-Obamacare insurance and cost about half as much as traditional insurance. These plans would be offered by Farm Bureau and administered through Wellmark, a partnership that has been in existence for decades.

Ultimately, Congress still needs to act on the issue of health care. We know that this won’t help ever single Iowan because the state is bound by inflexible federal regulations, but we are doing what we can do serve more Iowans. Senate File 2349 will make a real difference in ensuring that Iowans have access to the high quality, affordable health care that they need and deserve.

Work also continues on a tax reform plan that makes our system simpler, fairer, and more competitive.

Late last year, Congress cut taxes at the national level, saving Iowans more than $1.8 billion in federal taxes. However, because Iowa has federal deductibility, Iowans state taxes will actually increase. A federal tax cut was never intended to create a revenue windfall for the state to increase spending and grow government. We are working hard to return this money back to the hard-working taxpayers’ while doing so in a pragmatic, common sense way that protects key budget priorities and is sustainable in future years.

Congress continues to make changes and clarifications to the new tax law so we are closely monitoring the impacts to understand how it will affect Iowans.

The House is working off of Gov. Reynolds’ tax reform plan, which reduces rates and eliminates federal deductibility. The Senate has also passed their own version of a plan. We are working through components of each plan to craft the best possible tax reform bill possible. Stay tuned!

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 linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-3521.