Upmeyer on Affordable Health Care for Iowa Families

All this wet weather is making it very difficult for Iowa’s farmers to get harvest done for the year.  It seems we can’t go a single day without rain and farmers are ready to get back out into the fields.  I’m hopeful that it will soon dry up and our farmers can complete their work for the year, especially before snow hits.  Please stay safe out there during this time!

During the 2018 session, I wrote several newsletters about what we were doing to make health care more affordable and accessible for Iowa families.  Members of both parties worked together to pass landmark legislation that reforms Iowa’s mental health system so that Iowans in crisis are able to access services near their homes and in their home communities.  We passed a plan to tackle Iowa’s growing opioid epidemic to prevent doctor shopping, reduce overprescribing, and make sure those suffering from substance abuse and addiction are supported.

Another issue that we addressed was the rising cost of health care and the collapse of Iowa’s individual health insurance market.

Before session began, I was hearing stories about Iowans being forced to borrow money just to pay their health insurance premiums.  This was a major concern for countless Iowans, including families, small business owners, and farmers.  Many of these folks didn’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies and were expecting to be paying somewhere between $30-40,000.  They faced a choice of going broke or going without coverage.

We knew that we had to do something to address this problem.

In response, we crafted an innovative, state-based alternative for Iowans to purchase high quality health coverage at an affordable price.  These new health plans, known as Health Benefit Plans, will operate similar to the way insurance did before Obamacare and at a much lower price than what Iowans are paying in the individual market.  For now, the plans will be offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau and administered through Wellmark, a partnership that has been in existence for decades.

The details of these new plans were recently announced and will be available for sale to Farm Bureau members beginning November 1.  Farm Bureau membership is open to anyone.  The plans are underwritten and will offer comprehensive coverage including maternity, mental health, substance abuse, prescription drugs, and preventative care.  They can be purchased through independent insurance agents who choose to carry them and can be purchased year-round.  Health benefit plans are a great option for folks who don’t qualify for subsidies but don’t want to go without coverage.

For more information or to find a participating agent, visit IowaFBHealthPlan.com.

While these plans may not be right for every single person or family, they at least give Iowans a choice; something that was severely lacking before.  Ultimately, it is up to Congress and the Federal Government to act on the issue of health care.  Iowa’s hands are tied by the one-size-fits-all federal rules and mandates that are part of Obamacare, so there is only so much we can do.  In recent months, I am pleased to say that the Trump administration has worked hard to provide states with some new options and flexibility, however, I am disappointed that Congress has been unable to reach some sort of long-term solution that helps Americans afford the health coverage that they need.

I will continue to encourage our leaders in Washington to give states more flexibility in the area of health care so that we can meet the needs of Iowans. We will also continue to look for opportunities here at the state level and work with Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner to make health care more affordable, improve Iowa’s mental health system, and increase access to care.

It’s an honor to represent you in the Iowa House.  If I can help you in any way, I can be reached by email at Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or phone at (515) 281-3521.