1st District candidates spar over health care, but agree on pre-existing conditions

By: - November 1, 2020 8:00 am

A mail-order pharmacy is taking a state licensing board to court in a dispute over the way it makes and distributes a hormone sold to Iowans. (Photo by Getty Images)

If there’s one issue that Iowa’s 1st District congressional candidates agree on, it’s the need for Americans to have medical insurance that covers pre-existing conditions.

Democrat Abby Finkenauer, now seeking a second term in the November election, is facing Republican Ashley Hinson, a state representative from Marion. While the two are in agreement on pre-existing conditions, as well as the need for Congress to stand up to the big pharmaceutical companies, they differ on how to get there.

Here’s a look at each candidate’s stand on a few health care issues facing Congress:

The ACA and Big Pharma

During a debate on Iowa PBS, Hinson said the ACA isn’t working, and that it’s not achieving its goal of making health care affordable for Americans.

“I think we need targeted fixes and approaches, but I don’t think we can repeal and replace unless we have a plan to cover pre-existing conditions,” she said.

Finkenauer says she backs the “public option” approach advocated by former Vice President Joe Biden. As for the Affordable Care Act, Finkenauer says the law needs to be fixed so it gives people an option to buy into “something like Medicare.” That approach, she said, will foster competition in the insurance market and drive down premiums.

Both candidates oppose the concept of Medicare for All, and both say Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the ACA are, at the very least, premature given the lack of a well-defined plan to replace it.

Ashley Hinson is a Republican running for Iowa’s 1st District House seat. Democrat Abby Finkenauer is the incumbent. (Photo submitted by: Ashley Hinson campaign)

“We can’t repeal and replace until we have a plan to cover pre-existing conditions,” Hinson says.

Hinson says she will “fight to deliver patient-centered health care with the choice and control people want, the affordability they need, and the quality they deserve.”

She says she will “take on Big Pharma to put an end to out-of-control prices of prescription drugs” and will work to increase competition in the marketplace.

Hinson also says the federal government also needs to improve access to health care, especially for women, for families in rural areas, those with mental health needs.

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer is a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 1st District. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s office)

Finkenauer points to her work last year on a prescription drug reform bill that passed the House in December as a major accomplishment.

“It’s something I’ve heard from my constituents for years — that they were tired of Big Pharma running D.C., and they wanted real reform.”

The bill that was approved by the House has to win Senate approval. Finkenauer says if enacted, it will help ensure that Medicare negotiates directly with drug companies to bring down the price of drugs so the savings can be used to pay for dental, hearing and vision coverage.

The pandemic

Hinson and Finkenauer have conflicting views on the next round of federal assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finkenauer says Congress’ first priority should be assistance for firefighters, police officers and utility workers — “however much it’s going to cost.”

She pointed out the federal government will also need to provide assistance for cities and counties and states that “are losing millions of dollars” through increased spending and reduced tax revenues. “It’s going to put even public safety at risk if we don’t backfill the states right now,” she says.

Hinson applauds the paycheck protection program that she says has been “incredibly effective:” for Iowa business owners, but adds that Congress needs to “make sure the funds actually reach” those in need.

Democrats in the U.S. House have proposed a $3 trillion relief package, but in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, lawmakers are leading toward a $1 trillion relief package.

Hinson says “we do need to be cognizant of the fact that we don’t just have an endless pot of money here to work from,” while Finkenauer says members of Congress, including those in her own party, need to narrow their list of spending priorities.

The two disagree on whether a COVID-19 vaccine should be voluntary or mandatory, with Hinson saying the decision should be left to individuals, while Finkenauer says the decision on a mandate should be guided by public health experts.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.