Health care affects each and every one of us in deeply personal ways, which I learned firsthand at an early age. When I was only eight years old, my mother Terry was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. As she lost more and more strength, I had to grow up fast and shouldered more and more responsibility. I also learned that even though it often didn’t feel like it, we were the lucky ones. My mom Terry had health insurance through the University of Iowa, so we had access to high-quality health care. Even in her weakest and most painful moments, she never let me forget how lucky we were to have health insurance.
I believe access to quality health care is a human right. Just like it didn’t feel fair to have a parent trapped in a wheelchair, it isn’t fair that for so many Iowans, the quality of our health care comes down to how “lucky” we are. Getting treatment should never be a question of luck. Our state absolutely must do everything we can to guarantee that right for all Iowans.
Unfortunately, however, there are so many health care challenges facing our state, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
My priorities include:
- Mental Health Crisis — Iowa ranks dead last among the fifty states with only 64 public psychiatric beds in the entire state or about two beds per 100,000 people in our state. To give you a sense of how inadequate this is, the Treatment Advocacy Center says that each state should operate a minimum of 40 beds per 100,000 people. On top of this, Iowa is facing a mental health crisis and our rural communities are experiencing climbing suicide rates. We have to stop closing these facilities and we need to expand access to mental health services, especially in rural Iowa. MORE ON MENTAL HEALTH >>
- Opioid Epidemic — The research is crystal clear: Iowa is being hit hard by our nation’s opioid epidemic, and we have to do more at every level of government to fight back. (Public Service Announcement: If you or a loved one needs assistance, please call 1-866-242-4111 to access a 24/7 hotline or find a treatment center online.) Since 2000, heroin overdose deaths have increased by nearly a factor of ten and are continuing to rise. This is a major issue and Iowa needs to be proactively taking steps to turn this epidemic around.
- Medicaid Disaster — The privatization of Medicaid has been an unmitigated disaster. Medicaid is the second-largest part of our state budget after education spending. We have a sacred responsibility to make sure that we are spending these funds wisely and that we are taking care of the most vulnerable citizens among us. Our state’s heritage is deeply rooted in the conviction that we take care of each other and that we work together to get through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones.
- Rural Access — Iowa’s rural hospitals are experiencing many challenges as more and more of our state’s residents, and especially our young people, move into more urban areas. Further, rural care centers tend to take care of folks who are lower income and older, which means any cuts to Medicaid and to Medicare make it much, much more difficult for them to stay open. That’s why rural Iowans would have been absolutely crushed by Trumpcare — if it passes. Thankfully it did not.
- High Prices and Premiums — In 2017, Iowa nearly became the first state in the country without an insurance company selling plans on our state’s exchange. Further, even though Iowa Republicans supported President Trump early and often in the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump personally intervened to spike our state’s “Stopgap” proposal. Mr. Trump’s inability to present a straightforward plan for moving American health care forward makes our whole system more unstable and drives up costs for everybody.
- Prescription Drug Prices — The high and rising cost of prescription drugs is a major issue for many Iowans of all ages. Even though this is typically thought of as an issue for folks in Washington to deal with, there are steps our state lawmakers should be investigating to bring down the prices of prescription drugs.
- And even more — And frankly, there’s a whole lot more that we can’t fit onto this page.
Let’s face it: health care is incredibly complicated, and each and every one of us knows it. In the coming months, our campaign will be releasing a detailed plan that will get into the nuts and bolts of how I think about health care policy and how I will work in the Iowa legislature with Democrats and Republicans alike to address these challenges.