Ernst Holds Town Hall Question And Answer Session In Sigourney

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst at a town hall meeting in Sigourney, Iowa on April 3, 2018.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst at a town hall meeting in Sigourney, Iowa on April 3, 2018.

Sigourney, Iowa – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst held a town hall meeting at the Sigourney Community Center on Tuesday.

Ernst started off the question and answer session thanking the approximately 50 individuals for attending, considering the cold and rainy conditions.

Jerry Henderson from West Liberty Iowa asked about the Farm Bill negotiations.

Ernst said that crop insurance had been part of those discussions, and she has spoken with Chairman Roberts. “He came into my office just a few weeks back, and we sat down and went through the priorities that I have.”

Maintaining robust crop insurance is something Ernst says she is advocating. “Mother Nature, as we know, is just sometimes not a real reliable partner.”

Ernst believes that the upcoming Farm Bill will potentially make its way with more ease in the Senate over the House. “We work in a very bipartisan manner in the Senate. There are some hiccups in the House as they try to move it forward.”

The Farm Bill should start to make its way through the Senate, starting with the committee process, “and hopefully we’ll have that on the floor of the Senate very soon.”

Brenda Peppers asked Ernst about health insurance options for Iowans, who currently have only one option on the state exchange. “Last year we paid over $20,000 in insurance premiums,” saying that this year, the couple is now ineligible to buy individual insurance and wanted to know when that situation would change.

“That has been a real issue, in Iowa in particular because we only have one insurance company that exists on the state exchange.,” said Ernst. “We are hopeful that WellMark Blue Cross Blue Shield will make that decision to engage in the state exchange soon.”

Ernst said that there were statements from the company that they might return to the state exchange.

Ernst offered to help the small business owner with her negotiation with the insurance company. “According to Obamacare, you can’t be denied. The unfortunate part of that is, it is extremely expensive.”

Ernst spoke about measures that she and members of the Senate have been working on to help others like Peppers get and afford health insurance, but says the amendment was blocked by Democrats in the Senate as part of the Omnibus Bill.

Ernst pointed towards a bill that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law this past week that partners up with federal plans. “It’s not insurance, but they are association health plans,” that work as preventative coverage.

Thad Wonder from Iowa City challenged Ernst “To stand up to the President when he makes false statements.”

“You are in a position to set the record straight for the people of Iowa.”

Wonder then went on to asked Ernst about CRP payments and the statement that those payments helped young farmers to continue farming. Ernst said it’s part of the reason young farmers are able to continue.

Wonder believes it’s all the subsidies that farmers are receiving that minimize the risk. “The state of Iowa has received over 18 billion dollars since 1995, and the top 20 farmers have received over 65 million dollars. Do you support making the payments to the large corporate farms and closing the loopholes they currently use?”

“How do you justify crop insurance subsidies when we have a hard time justifying subsidies for ACA insurance? Health care is also a really large population of people in Iowa. The ACA really helps keep that profitable,” continued Wonder.

Ernst addressed the crop insurance versus the ACA subsidies. “I do support the cost share in payments. They come from the federal government.”

Ernst says that was part of the bill she had been sponsoring. “I support necessary, in order for folks that are paying $20,000. It’s here to assist low-income families, and that’s what we need to see are those support payments.”

Ernst said the goal is to have the cost of insurance brought down, and the argument shouldn’t be about the cost of health insurance, but instead the cost of health care, which include pharmaceuticals and the cost of regulation to health care providers. “Health care insurance is reflective of what those health care costs are.”

Ernst also heard concerns about the U.S. involvement in foreign countries, such as Israel, and Yemen.

After her townhall meeting, Ernst took questions from the media.

Oskaloosa News asked Ernst about Iowa’s veterans, and the concerns veterans have about the health care they are receiving through the VA.

“There is a huge push right now in the Veterans Affairs Committee which would even further streamline, it isn’t the Choice Program, but it is a takeoff of the Choice Program, which would allow veterans to choose where they want to go, in regards of how far away they live from a VA or so forth. We hope it will allow great accessibility of veterans, so they are not waiting 20, 30, 40, 60, 90 days for services at the VA or one of the clinics. I hope to see that bill move.”

“It is making its way through the process in Congress right now.”

Ernst says that the bill would allow veterans to utilize local health care services. “They could pick their provider. They could pick where they go, regardless of the distance they live from a VA center. It will have a lot of debate surrounding it. There are a lot of folks that won’t support that move. My stance has always been, when we look at Veterans Affairs, it should always be veteran first. Not the VA first, veterans first. So if a veteran chooses to go to another provider, they should have that opportunity to go to another provider.”

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Posted by on Apr 4 2018. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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