Town Hall Meeting Draws Huge Crowd
by Jane Whitmore
Constituents from near and far packed the Welcome Center in Emmetsburg last Saturday for the Legislative Town Hall Meeting. State Representative Megan Jones, Iowa Senator David Johnson and Congressman Steve King were there to listen to concerns and answer questions.
Health care, the replacement and repeal of Obamacare, drew the most comments and questions of the morning session.
Lori Hebel of Emmetsburg, Katie Platt of Mason City, and Anna Veltri of Emmetsburg addressed health care concerns to Congressman King.
“I am on Obamacare and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Hebel. “We’re open to suggestions, but so far we haven’t seen anything. I’m not feeling a lot of optimism.”
King answered, noting there are a lot of proposals for replacement and reform. (Since Saturday’s meeting, a health care proposal has been unveiled by Republicans on the federal level.)
“There are a good number of proposals for replacement and reform (of Obamacare),” said King. “The pieces that I’m talking about were in the Judiciary Committee and we passed two parts of replacement and reform. One of them would allow for insurance to be bought and sold across state lines. That’s been an idea we’ve worked on for a long time and it’s got a lot of support. The second one is full deductibility for everybody’s health insurance premiums. That helps a lot in making health insurance premiums mor affordable. The third part is my bill, dealing with malpractice reform legislation.”
King added, “We want to expand health savings accounts. We want to encourage people to buy higher deductible and higher co-payment policy so that the premiums are down so that you can pay your premiums out of the health savings accounts. With pre-existing conditions, there’s a commitment within our conference to roll that back to the states.”
King noted that the state had run a high risk pool which brought premiums down for people with tax dollars.
“Our conference proposes to do that by supplementing with federal dollars,” said King.
“It’s not a perfect bill, but fix it,” encouraged Hebel. “It’s expensive because medical is expensive.”
Katie Platt brought up the need to put a ban on lifetime caps.
King pointed out that by allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, states can make decisions, not federal.
“We need to tackle health care,”?said Representative Jones.”Part of that is helping people get healthier so that we have less cost. Tort reform is huge. We need to address medical malpractice lawsuits and drive these costs down.”
Ron Graettinger, from Graettinger, stated there needs to be a cap on medical malpractice, and also a cap on drugs and side affects.
Anna Veltri, who is on high risk insurance, simply said. “As far as funding for mental health, that scares me with the repeal of Obamacare.”
Mike Hermansen of Emmetsburg asked about the status of medical cannabis, pointing out that the Senate wrote a bill and the House wrote a bill in support of medical cannabis.
“You can use it, but you can’t possess it and you can’t buy it,” said Hermansen.
Megan Jones said the House bill is a little broader than the Senate bill. The existing bill did make it out of committee and will be discussed this year.
“The federal government had never been in the health care business, except Medicaid and Medicare, until Obamacare,” said King. “I?want no federal mandates so states have flexibility and people can buy insurance across state lines.”
Constituents also addressed education and home schooling.
Jane Hoyman of Emmetsburg expressed concerns about home schooling in Iowa.
“We’ve lost 3,000 children off school rolls,” she said, “We don’t know where these children are or if they are getting an education.”
Senator Johnson pointed out, “Not everyone has an educational choice; not everyone has private schools. We need to invest in our public schools.”
He added, “The governor said 2-percent for two years, the Legislature said 1-percent. I really think they’re holding back money. It will be interesting to see what happens as the budget proceeds. Community colleges are getting killed.”
“I?don’t think money is being held back”?said Representative Jones. “Regarding home school ac- countability and truancy, we need to monitor that. If students are truant, DHS?needs to come in. There are good and bad home schooling. We have no oversight on home schooling.”
“We would like to see credentials for home schools,” Jane Hoyman said.
Dozens more topics were addressed by the 70-plus people at the Town Hall meeting.
The third, and final, Town Hall meeting of the season will be held Saturday, April 1, at the Welcome Center.