None of them called for repeal, but some of the Democrats running in Iowa’s 1st District called for “major modifications” in their party’s signature congressional accomplishment of recent years – the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans also were split, with one calling for repeal and the other saying Obamacare just needs to be tweaked.
The differences on the ACA came as seven of the nine candidates for the open 1st District seat participated in a forum hosted by the Iowa Credit Union League in Des Moines. Winners of the June Democratic and Republican primary elections will face each other in November, with the winner succeeding Rep. Bruce Braley who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Given a multiple choice question of whether to take Obamacare as it is, modify it to make major changes or repeal it, state Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien were the only candidates to answer “A.”
“I’ve been fighting for health care for more Americans since I started getting involved in politics back in 1986,” O’Brien said. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s plans for health care reform were one reason he led their Iowa campaign in 1992.
Although Republicans called the Clinton reform a “disaster, a big government takeover,” O’Brien said their alternative then was what Obamacare has become.
“We got it made to work better,” he said. “It’s working in states that have adopted it. We’ve got to get these other states with Republican legislatures and Republican governors to start implementing it and we’ll all be much better off.”
Murphy would keep Obamacare with “minor, minor” changes to address tax issues.
“If you have a good insurance plan, you’re getting taxed on it,” he explained. “We shouldn’t do that. We shouldn’t tax people’s health care.”
The other Democrats, while supporting health care reform, said they would choose to modify the ACA.
Since working on health care reform in the Iowa Senate, former lawmaker and Iowa Utilities Board member Swati Dandekar of Marion has known “there were big gaps and small gaps.”
“So it has to stay,” she said about the ACA. “It cannot be repealed, but we do need to work on the gaps.”
Cedar Rapids City Council Woman Monica Vernon also supports the health care reform package with changes to address portability issues, for example.
“I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” she said. “I want to keep this, but it will take some time to make some major changes to have something in place that works.”
Health care is one of the issues that inspired her to run, state Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo told more than 100 credit union representatives.
“I support everyone having access to good affordable health care and I believe with the current law we should work on improving it,” she said.
Kajtazovic qualified her answer, saying she wasn’t sure it needed major changes because “there are some really great provisions in there.”
Republicans Gail Boliver, a Marshalltown attorney, and state Rep. Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls, disagreed on the best course of action. Rogers called for repeal. Boliver called for major modifications.
“Listen, we have a health care problem in this country,” Boliver said. “The ACA is a disaster. It loses jobs. It puts us in debt. It’s a major threat to our country. We need a market response that is competitive.”
Rogers agreed with him on the need for a free market approach, but said the ACA needs more than modifications.
“Come on, let’s be honest,” he said. “The roll out was horrible. The implementation has been horrible. Now President Obama wants to extend the mandate process to past 2016. We know this was a bad bill. I want to repeal it. Start over.”Two other Republican hopefuls, Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque, did not participate in the forum.