By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer
Iowans deserve accessible, high-quality healthcare and affordable prescription drugs — period.
In communities across our state, however, both remain out of reach for too many of our friends and neighbors. From town halls to roundtables to talking with neighbors – I hear this nearly everywhere I go in northeast Iowa, and it’s one of my top priorities as your congresswoman.
We must take steps to defend pre-existing condition coverage, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, protect Medicare and Social Security for the future, lower costs and ensure more transparency on prescription drugs and, of course, ensure our health care system is meeting the needs of rural places in Iowa and across the country.
Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked toward progress on all these priorities, and I know there’s still plenty more work to do.
Late last year, I met Abby King at a prescription-drug roundtable in Dubuque. Abby was a high school senior at the time, who like so many Iowans was struggling with the spiraling cost of insulin.
After the meeting, Abby’s father summed up just how difficult this situation is: he told me he hopes he’s able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding — not her funeral. Those words broke my heart, and brought into focus exactly what we’re fighting in this battle to lower drug costs.
Shortly after that roundtable, I helped pass H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies to bring down prices — lowering prices for all consumers while saving nearly a half-trillion dollars that we can use to expand dental and vision coverage for Medicare beneficiaries and invest in new medical research. The bill also included a bipartisan amendment I authored requiring prescription drug advertisements to disclose the cost of treatment — essential transparency information for consumers.
In January, I invited Abby King to attend the State of the Union Address as my guest — highlighting her story and reminding my fellow members of Congress exactly why we must lower the costs of prescription drugs.
When it comes to rural health care access, we’ve worked on legislation to raise Medicare reimbursement rates for rural doctors and community hospitals, address rural physician shortages and improve the availability of rural maternal care. Traveling around the district, I know these steps are absolutely essential — the vitality of our small towns and rural places depends on access to health care for Iowans of all ages.
With help from my Republican colleagues earlier this year, we passed a permanent funding extension for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as Hawki in Iowa. The change ensures that this vital and successful program remains funded into the future, ending uncertainty for families and preventing kids’ care from being used as a political bargaining chip in Congress. This is a common-sense change, and I was proud to have bipartisan support for the idea.
This year marks 10 years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care law that expanded coverage for millions of Americans and prohibits insurers from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions. While not perfect, we have to preserve key protections, and ensure the expanded availability of healthcare coverage continues.
This past summer, I led a tele-townhall to gather Iowans’ stories about access to healthcare and prescription drugs. We talked a lot on that call about threats to the ACA, including a pending lawsuit at the Supreme Court that threatens both existing insurance coverage and pre-existing conditions protections.
There was a clear consensus: we can build on the ACA and make changes to improve the care and Iowans receive, but stripping away coverage to score political points is just plain wrong. I strongly oppose any attempt to hurt hardworking folks by repealing this law without anything to replace it.
Healthcare is complex and deeply personal. But here’s my bottom line: healthcare is a human right, and as your member of Congress it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure every community, every family and every Iowan has access to affordable, effective care. That’s what I’m fighting for.
Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.