Whether talking with small business owners, moms, farmers or healthcare professionals – healthcare rightfully remains a common and serious topic of conversation and concerns for Iowans. There is no question the nation’s health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – or what some call Obamacare – has helped some patients, but there is no denying it has also hurt many across our state. As I’ve said time and again, I’m committed to work for common sense solutions to improve health care for all Iowans – not just some.

Over the past few years, Americans have seen how the ACA has led to higher health care costs, fewer and less health care options, and poorer quality of care. Iowa is no exception. Here at home, hard-working families have had to find ways to pay for their health care which has gone up almost 50% in costs for tens of thousands of Iowans already trying to make ends meet.

Recent developments in Iowa are creating access and cost issues for patients. Aetna and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced their plan to pull out of Iowa’s individual health insurance market for 2018.  And on May 3, The Des Moines Register reported Medica would follow the footsteps of those other carriers and leave the individual insurance market if needed steps are not taken to return stability to the health insurance market.

This means over 70,000 Iowans in 94 of our 99 counties will be left with zero health care options, effectively making Iowa a health care desert and denying care for Iowa children, families, including those with pre-existing conditions and the most vulnerable among us.

If having zero health care access options isn’t bad enough, under the ACA law, Iowans who live in those 94 counties that will in effect be health care access deserts would still be subject to the law’s individual mandate income tax penalties. The mandate dictates those individuals who do not purchase health insurance must pay a yearly individual tax penalty to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And it isn’t cheap. The average penalty paid for not purchasing health insurance in 2016 was $470 per person, according to the IRS Commissioner. And the law allows for penalties of up to $2,085 per person.

It is simply wrong to take money out of the pockets of hardworking Iowans who live in those health care desert counties as a penalty for not having insurance. They would be caught into this health care mandate catch-22 through no fault of their own.

On May 18th, I introduced common sense legislation to waive this oppressive individual mandate penalty for Iowans – or any American – living in a country where they have no access to health care insurance because providers have left.

Iowans are already worried they may not have access to health coverage next year because of the failing Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. That is heavy enough of a burden on a family’s mind. But, having the federal government penalize each family member several hundreds of dollars each year because they are caught in the health care access catch-22 is unfair, and my legislation fixes that.

In early May, the House of Representatives passed legislation strengthening health care access and affordability for Iowans which included the permanent full repeal of the oppressive Obamacare mandate and tax penalty. While not perfect, it took the necessary steps to establish a common sense solution to the failures of the ACA and instead provide stability for access to health care for Americans while also ensuring the protection of those with pre-existing conditions and the most vulnerable in our nation.

I remain committed to working for all Iowans and fighting for our Iowa values in Washington D.C., and I know when we work together, we can make a better Iowa for all of us to live, work and raise a family.

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