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States slash health care programs in budget crisis
Dental hygienist Sarah Reilly cleans the teeth of Medicaid patient Rachel Bogartz at the dental office of Dr. Jonathan Knapp in Bethel, Conn., Monday, July 20, 2009. Connecticut and other cast strapped states are considering cuts to Medicaid targeting benefits considered to be optional by the federal government, such as dental coverage for adults. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Thirty-six thousand Iowans in the state's 1st Congressional District would get insurance coverage under a Democratic health-care proposal, according to an estimate touted Friday by local reform advocates trying to keep pressure on lawmakers.

Organized by the Iowa affiliate of Health Care for America Now, the group met to highlight a health-care-overhaul bill passed by the House's Energy and Commerce Committee.

"It will finally answer the demands of so many Iowans that we've been hearing from," said Amy Logsdon, of Health Care for American Now.

The coalition of unions and other organizations backs many of the principles included in Democratic reform proposals.

With Congress out of session until September, the battle over health care is taking place in hundreds of town hall meetings, rallies and other events across the country.

Reform advocates are hoping to strengthen their case over the monthlong recess.

"There's a lot of really good things in this bill for doctors and their patients," said Dr. Alta Price, a Davenport pathologist.

The group said the legislation gives tax credits to businesses with fewer than 25 workers, and it helps seniors with prescription drug costs. Up to 1,900 small businesses would qualify for the credit, according to the group, which got its data from the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The House bill would require most businesses to offer health insurance, forbid denial of coverage and includes a publicly run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

It also would require individuals to get insurance.

Backers say the measure is budget neutral, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it will carry a net cost of $239 billion over

10 years. Democrats disagree with the CBO's analysis.

The effect on small business is a particularly controversial part of the measure.

Ida Johnson, executive director of United Neighbors Inc., said the community services agency, which employs five people, is seeing double-digit cost increases annually. It will likely reduce coverage for its employees, she said.

"Health care is eating us alive," she said. "We definitely need some kind of reform."

A Republican leader in the state didn't address the group's claims Friday but said the GOP wants reform, too. It just favors a market-based approach, said Jeff Boeyink, executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa.

"It is very clear the president's plan is very expensive," Boeyink said.

Backers of the House bill add it would take a bite out of the estimated $99 million in care provided by doctors and hospitals in the district each year to the uninsured.

Organizers of Friday's event met at the Davenport office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, a member of the House committee who voted for the bill.

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