Joni Ernst takes wait and see approach to American Health Care Act in Senate

Senator won't say if she supports lifetime caps on preexisting conditions

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Republicans in the House of Representatives pushed through their version of health care reform.

The American Health Care Act draws harsh criticism from Democrats who maintain millions of people would lose their insurance coverage if it becomes law.

It now moves to the Senate for consideration where it faces a difficult path.

4 the Record spoke with Senator Joni Ernst on Thursday right after she voted against the $1 trillion spending plan and while the House of Representatives voted on the Republican health care plan.

The American Health Care Act hasn't been scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office yet.

Ernst was asked if she thinks that's right and what chance she gives it of passing the senate in its current form?

"We will have to take some time, review what ever is passed by the House," said Senator Joni Ernst, (R) Iowa. "That material will come to us. Of course, we will need to sort through it and my thought is I need to make sure that this is right for Iowa. We'll run a number of different scenarios on how this will impact Iowa families, Iowa individuals. We want to make sure that we're doing the right thing for them. It has to be very thoughtful, though, and I think that we do need a CBO score to make sure that it is sustainable. We are seeing the problems right now with Obamacare. It is not sustainable and it's impacting Iowa families. We see that with a number of the insurance companies pulling out of the state exchange. Pretty soon, we will have no coverage, indivdual coverage for our Iowans and that's really unfortunate. We need to dive in and make sure we're doing the right thing for our families back home. But, leaving them without coverage is not the option that we want to take up. We want to make sure that we have affordable, quality coverage."

The House plan would let states opt out of parts of the current requirements. That means people with preexisting conditions could be denied coverage or wind up paying more for coverage.

That's not what the president promised.

These states would set up high-risk pools that generally mean extremely high premiums. There would be some offset, but it's questionable whether that's enough.

Ernst was asked if it's acceptable for people to pay more for coverage or if millions of Americans lose coverage altogether.

"There is an amendment that our own congressman, Congressman David Young, has sponsored in the House, which does provide for pots of money for those that have those preexisting conditions," Ernst said. "So they will receive additional subsidies for their premium costs. That is a great starting point to make sure that we are taking care of those families and those individuals that have preexisting conditions. That is very important to Iowans. They have mentioned that many times over. Another issue is making sure that young people up through the age of 26 can stay on their parents policies. That is another issue I've heard from Iowans. That's another thing that's very important to them so we will weigh that when it comes over to the Senate. I do hope that those are considerations that are in the House bill. That's something that we will take a good solid look at."

Ernst's reference to amendment to provide added subsidies would amount to $8 billion over five years. This proposal would put a cap on lifetime benefits for people with preexisting conditions. Ernst dodged when asked if she supports that.

"Those are all things that we will have to look at," Ernst said. "There will be some difficult choices that are made. But, whether the option is taking care of Iowans and making sure that there is available money for premiums, subsidized premiums, that will be very important. But again, just going back all of the Iowans that will now be with out health care insurance coverage, that's not an option that we want to face. And, I think that as soon as those policies are dropped by Wellmark, by Aetna, if Medica comes out of Iowa, I think we will hear from the tens and tens of thousands of Iowans that are losing coverage completely. They would have to pay out of pocket for anything that comes up regarding health care. And, that's not an option so we have to look at what's being presented, improve it in the Senate. If so, we need to look at how we do that. But, simply leaving Iowans without coverage because of Obamacare is not the option that we want for our Iowa families. This is a very difficult scenario, but because of Obamacare and the failure in that very law, we see thousands and thousands of Iowans. I mean, I think the numbers that I heard earlier today could be up to 130,000 Iowans that are left without any choice in health care coverage through an insurance company. That's very concerning to me and it's a direct result of the high costs of Obamacare so we have to do something about that. We'll see what the House passes to us. If there are ways that we can improve, I will certainly work on that."

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