Iowa GOP leaders failed us on health care bill

TJ Foley, a recent graduate of Valley High School in West Des Moines, on how top Iowa Republicans failed to speak out against an “attack on the most basic principles of equality, freedom, and rural fairness.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s been a rough week for Senate Republicans. Two conservative senators announced that they would oppose the reckless GOP plan to overhaul America’s health care system and drop millions from the health insurance rolls. This legislation emerged from secret negotiations and violated some of the most basic Iowa values we all hold dear.

I may be young, but last I checked, Iowa values ruled out targeting rural communities. That is exactly what every released GOP health care proposal does. The most recent bill phased out the federal expansion of Medicaid, which helps provide health care to nearly one out of every seven Iowans. A smaller Medicaid program uniquely impacts rural voters, who have fewer options for health insurance and are more likely to utilize the Medicaid program, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To make matters worse, the alleged savings of these programs don’t go back to ordinary, hardworking taxpayers. Studies from the Tax Policy Center on a similar bill indicate that the tax changes contained in the new health care measure will overwhelmingly go to the top 20 percent of income earners in the United States, will little to no benefit to the remaining 80 percent of the country. Iowans believe in the value of hard work and the equality of all people, and working people deserve better treatment than what this proposal provided.

It was clear from the outset that this proposal spelled trouble for American workers and families, which is why thousands of our fellow citizens communicated their opposition to their elected officials. But when the call went out to Iowa’s representatives to oppose this attack on the most basic principles of equality, freedom, and rural fairness, our elected officials refused. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. Our leaders failed us.

Iowa’s Congressional delegation contains one Democrat and five Republicans. Not a single Iowa Republican condemned this legislation and called it what it is: a mean-spirited tax giveaway to the wealthiest among us. This was an opportunity for them to lead the nation towards a better and more affordable health care system by working with Democrats and listening to their constituents. Instead, they opted for silence. And that silence speaks volumes.

The opportunity to lead on healthcare isn’t limited to members of Congress. Governor Kim Reynolds could have followed the example of fellow GOP Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada and spoken out against this bill. Healthcare is not only a federal issue. If the Medicaid expansion is abolished then the state must pick up the tab for people dropped from coverage or restrict access to care entirely, making this legislation a state budget issue as well. Reynolds frequently appeals to our shared Iowa values as a justification for policy action–it is a shame that she couldn’t summon those same values in the health care debate.

Shared principles have held Iowa together for 171 years. We’ve thrived for all those years because when our values were threatened, we’ve stood up to defend them. At this defining moment, we must stand up to secure them once more. Now is the time to transcend party affiliation and tell our congressional delegation to summon their Iowa courage and work with their colleagues to formulate health care legislation that we can all take pride in.

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  • Good writing

    This is a well-written articulate essay, and I am personally grateful that it properly used the word “phased” instead of misusing “fazed.” I have seen the latter word misused too often in recent years in mass media. Thank you, TJ Foley.