Long before President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, Iowa state representative Linda Upmeyer knew she opposed it and attempted to prevent the most objectionable provisions from affecting her state. Six months after its passage, she’s still against Obamacare — and willing to do whatever it takes in Iowa to protect her citizens.
As a registered nurse, Upmeyer knew as soon as she learned about the major measures of Obamacare that it would force health care providers to jump through new hoops.
“Providers are going to be spending more time filling out more forms,” she said. “It adds another layer of bureaucracy and every piece of bureaucracy costs money.”
As a state legislator, she recognized that PPACA — with its unprecedented individual mandate to purchase health insurance — would pose a threat to federalism. Like other state officials, she understood immediately the implications of a government grab at the authority to require citizens to purchase a private product.
“This central government in Washington wants to take all the decision-making to Washington and have it all occur there,” she said. “I think it’s a travesty, it’s wrong, that’s not what our Founding Fathers intended to have happen, and I think that’s one of the big reasons that people want to have a constitutional battle over this — because we have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.”
Upmeyer and her fellow Republicans in the Iowa state legislature attempted to draw that line before Congress even passed Obamacare. They knew how effective state health care policy could be — and they didn’t think federal interference would improve health care for Iowans.
Iowa is already a low-cost, high-quality health insurance state, Upmeyer said. Ninety-six percent of Iowa children are insured and 91 percent of the general population owns insurance. Even before Obamacare passed, adult children in Iowa could remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 25. The state also had a high-risk pool.
“We don’t see any reason why we need federal government in here telling us how to do it differently when, in fact, we just need to continue down the path that we’ve chosen to get insurance to all the people in Iowa who want it,” Upmeyer said.
So, early this year, in a proactive attempt to shield the state from Obamacare, the Iowa House Republican Caucus introduced a variety of measures: a state constitutional amendment to preserve the freedom of Iowa citizens to provide for their own health care, a bill to maintain the health freedoms of Iowans and a bill to assert Iowa state sovereignty, among others, according to The Iowa Republican website. The Democratic majority defeated every piece of legislation introduced.
But Upmeyer’s not ready to give up yet — nor is she content to rest her hopes on the outcome of court battles in Virginia and Florida that challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare, however admirable she thinks those lawsuits might be.
“While [the lawsuits] may very well be successful and I agree with [them], I think [they] may not solve the problem,” she said. “If we are unable to start from scratch, with a clean slate, what can we do to improve the bill? I think we should look at every avenue and what opportunity there is to make this better.”
For Upmeyer, that means forging ahead in the Iowa state legislature and crafting state health care policy that works for Iowa, but doesn’t necessarily take its cues from the federal bill.
“I think the thing that every state needs to be diligent about is to create a plan that works for you,” she said. “Create the plan that you would otherwise put in place yourself and then the federal government can see if that plan doesn’t fit their model instead of us fitting the federal model. … I think there are enough unwritten spots where we can perhaps insert the language that will work for states.”
Upmeyer’s optimistic that her efforts will be successful, especially given the widespread skepticism of the bill among Iowans right now.
“Few of the people I talk to in Iowa believe that the federal government, the people in Washington, hear them, understand them and work every day to meet their specific needs the same way state-level government does,” she said.
President Obama seems to recognize that, too: He visits Iowa today to focus attention on middle class families — but also, presumably, to promote the increasingly unpopular health care bill.
“I think [he’s] probably not going to find the kind of reception that [he] hoped for,” Upmeyer said.
In the meantime, Upmeyer will continue to bear the standard of opposition she’s assumed.
“The thing I keep stressing to people is that we can’t give up,” she said. “We should never, never give up.”