Iowa City Stories

May 8, 2010

The Road to Reform

The Beginning

During the 2008 presidential campaign, healthcare reform was one of the top issues of concern.

Around 47 million Americans were without health coverage and millions more without adequate coverage. Americans were having to choose between putting food on the table or having to pay for much needed medication. Most Americans chose to put food on the table and, unfortunately, made due with their health.

45,000 Americans were dying every year to do either poor, or non-existent, coverage.

Going to Work

After Barack Obama was elected president, he went straight to work on repairing the ails of the country. His first project, and rightfully so, was to bailout a number of big banks to prevent another Great Depression.

But after the bailouts, Obama immediately turned his focus onto healthcare. Attempting to make due on his promise, he let the Congress know that he would not anything less than a public option in a bill that reached his desk. The Congress immediately went to work.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, began wrangling fellow Democrats to being the process of constructing a health bill in Obama’s vision.

An Unexpected Turn

While ideas of how to construct the healthcare bill were in the works, Congress went to recess over the summer months of 2009. Democrats decided to place any legislation-building on hold to win the hearts and minds of their constituents at home.

This strategy, Democrats hoped, would place the Republicans in a tough spot; to prevent them from any legislative blocking measures such as the use of the filibuster. Democrats believed their constituents were very much in favor of reforming the healthcare industry and were desperately wanting a public option.

What happened over the three months was a situation the Democrats, and the President, didn’t expect to have happen.

Republican members of Congress were labeling the public option as the expansion of the Federal government and the beginning of when the government would be telling its citizens how to live their own lives.

Hundreds of town hall meetings took place during the period, and the Republicans were on the offensive. The bad news for Democrats? The Republican message was winning.

Rise of the Death Panels

At these town hall meetings, many American citizens voiced their concerns that the government was, indeed, becoming too large and would infringe upon any rights they had as individuals.

Democratic members of Congress, all to often, came face-to-face with scared and angry constituents at their town halls and spent much of their time on the defensive.

Republican members of Congress met with the same crowd of Americans, but seemed to be more welcomed by their constituents. Republicans echoed their constituents concerns at these meetings in order to solidify their message. It was working.

Media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity were helping to spread the Republican message. As the summer drew on, more and more pollsters found that more Americans were not favoring a reform on healthcare.

It wasn’t until August when the most damning assault on healthcare reform arrived: death panels.

Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, stated that the Federal government, under the proposed healthcare reform, would be “putting Grandma to death.”

This became very disturbing to elderly citizens and the message spread, like wildfire, throughout the media. Soon enough, prominent Republicans, such as Sarah Palin, began echoing the message that Senator Grassley has spawned.

Democrats realized that the road to health reform, could very well be lost.

Pressing On

By late summer, the Democrats began to wonder if a repeat of 1994 was going to occur. In 1994, the Clinton Administration had tried their hand at health reform only to have it utterly defeated by the newly elected Republican Congress. It was a bitter defeat for the administration.

While Democrats lost the message war, they weren’t losing their fight. But it became clear that a public option in the bill was not going to happen, so other means of passing healthcare reform had to be explored.

Pelosi’s Victory

It was up to House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to gather fellow Democrats for an historic vote. Pelosi worked tirelessly to gain the minimum 218 votes needed to pass the bill in the House.

In November, the healthcare bill finally saw voting time. The bill passed by a 220-215 margin.

While it was history in the making, the media felt that health reform was still very much in danger due to the small margin of victory and, now, having to go through a much more stubborn Senate.

Senator Reed’s Battle

Like his House counterpart, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had to deliver enough votes on health reform.

But the problem was that Senate Republicans were going to be more difficult than their colleagues in the House. They were not going to rollover and let this bill slide through as easily. Senate Republicans wanted to amend the bill; to eliminate aspects of it that they did not agree with and, then, to push it through.

Senator Reid faced a tougher challenge than Speaker Pelosi. There was worry that, even though Republicans didn’t have the minimum 40 members required to start a filibuster, there was concern that any blue-dog Democrat, such as Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, may join the Republicans in slowing the process down, if not, defeating the healthcare bill all together.

After going through numerous committees, some changes had been made to the bill. But there was now concern that if enough changes took place, the bill would have to go back to the House for approval if the Senate were to pass it.

Speaker Pelosi expressed some concerns of that situation taking place, but was not going to worry too much about it unless it did become a reality. Senate Democrats had enough time to block Republican amendments to the bill and to speed it up to a vote.

That’s exactly what they did.

Senate Passes Reform

Senate Democrats decided that the Republican party had enough say in the health reform debate. They believed Republicans were only obstructing the process instead of bringing solutions to the table and blocked any proposed amendments to the bill; such as an abortion amendment that wouldn’t allow Federal funds to pay for a woman’s abortion.

When it came time to vote, the Senate passed the healthcare bill by a margin of 60-39.

Signed into Law

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the healthcare bill into law. History was made.

Two days after signing, President Obama went on a cross-country tour to celebrate the victory and to continue to build support for health reform.

His first stop was at the University of Iowa; a town that is as pro-Obama as you can get. During his speech, in front of 3,000 people at the Field House on the University of Iowa campus, President Obama celebrated the victory.

But what was more important to him was to let people know that, while a huge battle was fought and won, so much more work needed to be done.


Health Reform a Sign of Too Much Government to Some

Filed under: IC Stories: Nessa, Health Care — Tags: , — Kent Nessa @ 12:38 pm

Protesters of President Obama's Iowa City visit crowd the East lawn of the Old Capitol.


On March 24, a day before President Obama made a visit to the University of Iowa, opponents of the newly-signed healthcare legislation gathered on the Pentacrest to voice their concerns of a Federal government that was expanding in size and infringing on the states’ rights and those of the American citizen.

“Our elected officials strapped us with a bill we, the people, don’t want,” said 2nd District candidate, Christopher Reed. “No more, Mr. President! Not without a fight!”

The gathering of citizens at the Pentacrest included speakers from the Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbent Democrats for their seats at the state and Federal levels. The crowd contained a mixture of Republican and Tea Party supporters.

Waking a Sleeping Giant

Signs littered the crowd showing the disapproval of the healthcare legislation. “You, the voting public, have a lot of think about,” said Reed specifically citing the midterm elections this November. “The government is usurping the Constitution. You have woke a sleeping giant, Washington.”

“Where was our Attorney General?” asked Brenna Finley who is looking to succeed incumbent, Tom Miller. “Tom Miller isn’t protecting your rights.”

A Bill not for the People

Some of those opposed feel that, not only does the bill increase the size of government, but that it also doesn’t do what it says it will do. “People would have to pay for everyone else’s health care, including illegals,” said Minneapolis resident, Jason Nessa.

“It’s a collective-type of bill. It’s a big pharma bailout. If you don’t pay, the government will fine you $15,000 and put you in jail for five years,” Nessa said.

Concern for States’ Rights

Nessa isn’t surprised that 13 state Attorney Generals are suing the Federal government over the new legislation, “It’s [the] government interfering with state affairs. Citizens are the main source of power in our country, not the Federal government.”

But Nessa believes that healthcare shouldn’t put millions of Americans into debt, “The overall system should be free. [People] shouldn’t have to go into debt for medical care. It was free for a long time many years ago.”

However, Nessa thinks healthcare problems should not be handled at the Federal government level, “I want it to be free, [but] states will decide what’s best for the people.”

It’s About Time: Arrival of Health Reform

Filed under: IC Stories: Nessa, Health Care — Tags: , , — Kent Nessa @ 11:15 am

The Bill

The healthcare legislation, that was signed into law by President Obama back in March, couldn’t have come at a better time for many Americans.

Nearly 50 million Americans, and counting, didn’t have any form of health insurance. Harvard medical researchers have found that approximately 45,000 Americans die every year, because they don’t have any health care.

The new healthcare legislation includes such provisions as:

  • Not being turned down by physicians due to any pre-existing health conditions.
  • Physicals, and other preventive measures, will not only be more affordable, but will not be paid for out-of-pocket by the patient due to his/her health insurance/Medicare not including it in their coverage.
  • The freezing and, in some cases, lowering of premiums, to make health care more affordable.
  • Prescriptions available at a greatly reduced price.
  • College students can stay on their parents’ health insurance up until the age of 26.
  • Tax incentives for businesses that provide health coverage to their employees.

Those the Bill Impacts

That last point is one of the reasons why University of Iowa senior, Jake Shkolnick is excited about the new healthcare reform, “When I do get a job, I know I’ll have health insurance. If I get sick, they can’t take it away from me.”

Adding on to another benefit of the healthcare legislation, “[It] keeps costs down while keeping a better quality of life,” Shkolnick said. “I’ll [also] get ti stay on my parents’ health insurance.”

While Shkolnick is tremendously thrilled that reform is on its way, he realizes that the legislation still isn’t perfect. “I would certainly like to see a not-for-profit public option [and] even more tax breaks for low-income individuals if they can’t get it through their employer.”

Rick Spooner, 47 and an Iowa City resident, is all to familiar with the struggles that many Americans face. Spooner suffers from cerebral palsy and has avoided doctor visits in the past due to high costs of the visits. “I wish the free enterprise system would work, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta do something.”

Spooner likes “reassurance of any insurance option. That you can afford a physician. As I get older, my medical condition could get worse. I can barely afford groceries now. I would prefer to pay for my own medical care [but] that isn’t the current case.”

Spooner uses Medicare and Medicaid as his means of paying for any medical costs. But those measures haven’t even been able to give Spooner the kind of health coverage he needs. “[They] can’t do preventive health procedures unless it’s an emergency. Last physical I took, I had to absorb costs.”

Uncertainty & Wanted Improvements

The lack of coverage by either Medicare and Medicaid has forced Spooner to not even see the physician when he needed. There have “been several times I would have gone into a physician just to feel better, but didn’t. A lot of existing health coverage won’t cover preventive medicine. Depends on the test too. [But] I don’t which tests are covered and which ones are not; so I don’t get them.”

Spooner also wishes the health care legislation was better to people with lower incomes. “My mobility may be affected when I get older. If I have to be in a wheelchair, who’s going to pay for that? What if I can’t do regular household duties? What if I can’t afford a maid to help me if I can’t do that when I’m 70?

“If I get a serious medical problem, I don’t know what Medicare and Medicaid will cover. The current system doesn’t remove the insecurities or absorb the costs for preventive medicine. They say preventive medicine works, but you can’t pay for them. I don’t know what else to do.”

Spooner realizes that the reform isn’t perfect, but he knows it’s a step in the right direction. “If I had one wish, it wouldn’t be to have $1 million, it’d be to go into any physician in the town I live in and not have to worry about medical costs with my income level.”

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