Stay on track with health act debate

Jennifer Hemmingsen
Published: June 30 2012 | 12:01 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 9:05 pm in
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The ink wasn’t even dry on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before we started to hear the thrumming of a thousand PR machines across the land.

But there were few surprises in reactions that split quite cleanly along party lines:

Gov. Terry Branstad called it a “disastrous decision” to uphold a “destructive health care law.” Sen. Tom Harkin said it “affirmed the common sense idea that virtually all Americans will use health care, whether or not they choose to purchase insurance.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley said he respected the court but strongly disagreed with the decision, one which Rep. Dave Loebsack said brings “stability and certainty to Iowans as they make critical health care choices for themselves and their families.”

Fans focused on preventive care and pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole, allowing parents to cover their children to age 26, and on the act’s benefits to women’s health.

Foes warned it makes government too big, that the individual mandate tramples individual freedoms. That, contrary to what Democrats said when they were touting the thing, it’s a tax. It’s a tax. It’s a tax. It’s a tax.

In short, everyone just dusted off their talking points from 2010. And all, regardless of where they stood, explicitly or coyly pledged to make the issue center stage in November. Talk about disastrous.

It would be a mistake to make this fall’s election a referendum on such a much-misrepresented and poorly understood piece of legislation. Candidates have little incentive to accurately describe the act’s wide-ranging provisions. Voters will have to work hard to get up to speed about what it truly entails.

Healthcare providers already have spent millions of dollars to carry out less-controversial provisions of the act. Investments they say will help improve care and control costs — in other words, which will work exactly as intended. But nuts and bolts make poor campaign rhetoric. We’re sure to hear little about that.

In the flurry of statements issued in response to the Supreme Court ruling last week, the guest opinion penned by St. Luke’s Hospital President and CEO Ted Townsend and Iowa Health System CEO Bill Leaver stood apart.

“Can we move on?” the health providers asked, pleading with policy makers, candidates and voters not to lose their heads in bitter battle.

“We are already on our way to reforming health care,” the men wrote. “Let’s not get derailed.”

Comments: (319) 339-3154; jennifer.hemmingsen@sourcemedia.net

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