The director of a not-for-profit organization in Davenport is among 72,000 Iowans facing the loss of affordable health care coverage because Iowa’s individual health insurance market is on the verge of collapse. Some of the 72,000 Iowans who depend on subsidized health care include people who are between jobs or on fixed incomes. Still others may have had a change in family status, such as one spouse losing coverage when the other spouse became eligible for Medicare. Families like these can’t afford premiums that could reach as high as $30,000 a year.
Iowa’s crisis is the result of politicization of health care at the state and national level. The human cost is becoming painfully apparent, which is why the Iowa Insurance Division has stepped in with the proposed Iowa Stopgap Measure. It’s not a permanent solution to the health care coverage crisis, but is intended to alleviate the collapse of Iowa’s individual health insurance market; it deserves our support.
A required, independent analysis found that Iowa’s Stopgap Measure is “a better alternative for Iowa than the ACA (Affordable Care Act),” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said. “Iowans who purchase their own health insurance are at a breaking point as the ACA market is collapsing. Many Iowans are considering going uninsured. The Iowa Stopgap Measure is a short-term solution available to Iowans in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. To put it simply — Iowa needs the flexibility to do what works for us so as few Iowans as possible are priced out of the individual health insurance market.”
Federal approval is essential, as is a timely response to the proposed state-federal partnership. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Assistance has the authority to grant the stopgap measure under the ACA, which allows states to pursue innovative strategies to provide residents with access to high quality, affordable health coverage.
The stopgap measure depends on federal funding. At present, federal payments provide for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) that help low-income people afford their copays and deductibles (Iowa Policy Project). Those payments could end if President Donald Trump follows through with a threat to allow the ACA to implode. Such a decision would be cruel and would have long-term ramifications as more sick people resort to the emergency room for care. Hospitals and, ultimately, taxpayers would pick up the bill.
Instability in Iowa’s individual ACA-compliant market began with liquidation of Co-Opportunity Health, Inc., in 2014 and continued a downward spiral as other insurers bailed out. Many of the newly insured individuals were “much sicker, older and more costly than previously estimated,” the Iowa Insurance Division states in its stopgap proposal. The lone remaining insurer already is seeking an average rate increase of 43 percent. In response, Iowa’s Stopgap Measure would establish:
• A single, standard plan available to every eligible Iowa consumer from each participating carrier.
• Flat, per-member per month premium credits based on age and income. (This could bring in healthier, younger individuals.)
• A reinsurance program to support high-cost claims. (This could attract more insurers back to the marketplace.)
The director of the not-for-profit requires medication to live. Going without medication is not an option. He is concerned and frustrated, worrying that health care coverage will take up a sizable portion of his net income.
Catholic Messenger Editorial Board member Father Francis Odoom observes that the church’s interest is the human person. “We make policies to respond to the human condition.” But Congress is paralyzed in polarization over the healthcare issue and has abdicated its responsibility to make policies that respond to the human condition. So the states are left to cobble together plans that ultimately require federal investment in fulfilling what the church views as a basic, human need: affordable health care.
Urge members of Congress to support Iowa’s Stopgap Measure. Share support of the Iowa Stopgap Measure with Insurance Commissioner Ommen. Here is the contact information:
Sen. Charles Grassley: www.grassley.senate.gov or call (202) 224-3744; Sen. Joni Ernst: www.ernst.senate.gov or call (202) 224-3254; Rep. Rod Blum at https://blum.house.gov or call (202) 225-2911; Rep. David Loebsack: https://loebsack.house.gov or call (202) 225-6576. Visit the Iowa Stopgap Measure website at https://iid.iowa.gov/iowa-stopgap-measure.
Recall that Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 25: “… whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor