Iowa delegation reacts to Obama health care address

Iowa's congressional delegation released prepared statements following (and one preceding) President Obama's speech this evening.  Read them below, in the order they were received in the Radio Iowa newsroom.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, issued the following comment in advance of the President’s speech tonight to a joint session of Congress.

“Health care is so far-reaching, major changes should not be enacted without broad-based bipartisan support.   In addition, the bills presented so far in Congress haven’t even met the major goal of lowering health care costs.  It’s obviously time for a new kind of effort that would focus on fixing what’s broken and not make things worse.  To start building the kind of legislation that could win the support of 70 to 80 senators, the President needs to demonstrate that he’ll fight, through the end, for a proposal that reaches common goals without creating government health care.

“I’ve been working this year with the chairman and other members of the Senate Finance Committee to see if health care legislation can be developed in a way that slows down health care inflation and makes health insurance more affordable and accessible without increasing the federal deficit.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours working through how to accomplish these goals. Republicans and Democrats in our group have grappled with how to avoid unintended consequences due to the complexities of health care. The wisdom of this methodical approach was reinforced by the dramatic shortcomings in bills pushed through by the Senate HELP Committee and three House committees. The Congressional Budget Office said they would not reduce the growth in health care costs and would add hundreds of billions more to the federal deficit.

“For many Americans, the health care debate is the straw that broke the camel’s back. People question whether the deficit-financed stimulus bill passed last winter did any good. They don’t think the Federal Reserve’s bailout efforts are working for them. Big banks and even automakers have been essentially nationalized, the deficit is forecast to be more than $9 trillion over the next decade, and working Americans don’t see how giving the government a bigger role in health care makes any sense.

“So, the question is can problems be fixed without upending the whole health care system?

“Fixing the affordability and access problems facing small businesses and individuals who buy insurance on their own is a top priority. The situation shouldn’t be made worse with job-killing employer mandates and tax hikes that hit job-creating small businesses the hardest. Instead, insurers should be prohibited from denying coverage or charging exorbitant rates for pre-existing conditions and from imposing annual and lifetime limits on benefits.  Stronger consumer protections should be enacted. And a virtual shopping mall with more private health plan choices should be created so that consumers compare prices, benefits and quality, and then pick the plan that’s best for them.  Top actuaries and the Congressional Budget Office have said that making plans compete will keep premiums lower and increase affordability for everyone.

“Curbing runaway health care costs is another top priority because current rates of growth are unsustainable. Policy changes to the way that health care is paid for in Medicare would drive down costs and also increase the quality of medical care that is delivered. Value-based purchasing would tie provider payments to innovation and quality, rather than quantity.  Research from the Dartmouth Atlas Project shows that billions of dollars each year are wasted on health care spending that ends up producing worse health care. By updating Medicare’s antiquated payment systems, we would strengthen and protect the program for Medicare beneficiaries by eliminating overpayments and waste that contribute to Medicare’s insolvency. We’d also reduce costs throughout the system because of the way that private health insurance models its payment systems after Medicare.  Making the payment incentives in Medicare make sense would have a positive ripple effect that would fundamentally reduce the growth in health care costs across the board.

“Defensive medicine also contributes to high costs and, clearly, medical malpractice reform is needed to reduce costs and increase access to doctors.

“Additionally, the way that health care reform is financed determines whether legislation will be successful in driving down the health care costs that hurt both big and small employers and strain family budgets. Revenue needs to be raised and savings need to be achieved from within the health care sector. Otherwise, Congress will only be dumping more money into the system, fueling greater inefficiencies and more waste, and making the cost problem far worse for patients and providers alike.
“I oppose creating a new federal insurance program because it would lead to a government-run system.  Putting the federal government in charge of health care would not curb medical inflation or improve the health care delivery system. From rationing of care to infringing on the doctor-patient relationship, a government run system also would guarantee U.S. taxpayers a staggering tax burden for generations to come.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham issued the following statement on Wednesday in response to President Barack Obama's health care speech before Congress:

"President Obama’s speech tonight proved once again that he is an exceptional orator, but the American people have made it very clear over the past several weeks that they don’t want more speeches.  What the American people want is a new plan.

There is no doubt that millions of Americans face a health care crisis and that common sense reforms are needed.  But when the dust settles and the debate ends, we must be sure we’ve done the right thing for future generations.

I’ve held town meetings in each of the 28 counties I represent and have listened to the concerns of thousands of Iowans.  I’ve heard overwhelming support for reforms that strengthen and expand the health care safety net as long as those reforms do not destroy the health care Iowans already have and, for the most part, are happy with.

Plain and simple, some of the proposals sought by the President and his party’s leaders in Congress give the federal government even greater influence over every single person’s personal health care while committing taxpayers to a path of massive new spending that we can’t afford.

Because health care reform will touch the lives of every single American, we must start over and work together to achieve a bipartisan solution.  I’ve proposed legislation as a starting point for health care reform that would contain health care costs while preserving competition, choice, ownership and individual control.  My solution puts patients, their health and their well-being ahead of special interest groups and partisan politics. I hope those same principles will guide the rest of my colleagues as we continue with this debate."

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s address on healthcare before a joint session of Congress tonight:

“President Obama is right: it’s time for action on meaningful healthcare reform.  And meaningful healthcare reform means doing everything possible to reduce healthcare costs, make health insurance more affordable, and expand access to quality health insurance.  I was glad to hear the President express support for the public health insurance option, but a public option must be included in a reform plan to make it as effective as possible at reducing skyrocketing costs.  The bottom line is that we need healthcare reform, because we just can’t afford the cost of inaction,” said Rep. Bruce Braley.

Congressman Loebsack’s Statement on the President’s Joint Address

“As the President has said, as I have said, and more importantly, as Iowan after Iowan has said, health care reform is long overdue, and doing nothing while health care costs skyrocket is unacceptable. Tonight’s address reminded all Americans that this issue is about much more than political points and posturing – it is about people’s lives.

“People like Darlyne Neff, a 75-year old retired teacher from Iowa City, and a guest of the First Lady at tonight’s address. A cancer survivor, and an avid supporter of health insurance reform, Darlyne knows all too well the pitfalls that can devastate a family when it comes to paying medical bills.

“As we work to craft real reform, we must remember Darlyne’s health care stories, our friends and neighbor’s stories, and our own stories to fight for reform that will increase choice, stability, and quality of care for all Americans.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

“Tonight President Obama reclaimed the health reform initiative in a powerful way.  He illustrated that failure is not an option when it comes to health reform and he made a powerful case that the current health system is dangerously broken, and that even people who have health insurance are at risk of medical or financial catastrophe.  There is overwhelming consensus – including among many Republican Senators – that the current system is broken, and that doing nothing is not an option.

“Up until today, President Obama has rightly let Congress pave the way on health reform and develop a proposal that will cover the uninsured and provide affordable, robust, quality health insurance coverage for all Americans.  Tonight the President took a step forward with strength, purpose, determination and resolve, to let Congress know he wants to accomplish this mission as soon as possible.

“President Obama gets high marks for his speech in my book.”

Congressman Leonard Boswell released this statement following tonight’s joint address to the U.S. Congress on health care:

“President Obama’s address tonight underscores the urgency of the situation at-hand. Party and politics do not have a place in the health care discussion because health care reform is first and foremost about people. The President has issued a call to action. It is time for us as lawmakers to produce a final health care bill that will provide stable costs, stable quality, and stable coverage.”

“In my opinion, a public option that is offered in a health care exchange (patterned off the current federal government employee plan) is the best way to achieve true competition in the insurance market and get more people insured. However, it must be structured so that all providers are paid fairly and proportionately to the quality of service they offer. Iowa doctors and hospitals cannot afford to continue to be paid less than the rest of the country.”

“In the coming weeks, I will work alongside my colleagues to produce a robust health care bill that has real solutions. The status quo is indefensible. We must reform the health care system to control rising costs, increase quality and value, and improve access to coverage and care.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, issued this comment about the President’s address to a Joint Session of Congress regarding health care reform.

“There’s support across the political spectrum for initiatives to make health insurance more affordable and accessible, and we know that legislation has to slow the rate of growth in health care costs, or the situation will get worse instead of better.  The speech could have been pivotal for bipartisanship if it had been clear-cut in ruling out the prospect of a new government-run plan.  By leaving it up to Congress, where key leaders in both the House and Senate support a government-run plan and control the ultimate outcome, the President passed up a big opportunity.”


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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.