Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Theresa Greenfield, in a virtual town hall Thursday, promised to support Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Voter Series: Medicare Anniversary Town Hall included Greenfield; moderator Kay Pence, vice president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans; and at least 14 other attendees in a remote session.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who said she regretted not being able to attend, provided comments on Medicare and other health-care topics:
“As the daughter of parents who rely on Medicare every month, I understand how important this program is for our seniors and those at or near retirement,” Ernst said. “It’s critical we preserve and protect Medicare for our seniors and work to ensure it will remain strong.”
“We also must work to lower the costs of health care, and particularly the costs of prescription drugs for our seniors,” Ernst said. “That’s why I’m focused on lowering the cost of health care for seniors, specifically the costs of prescription drugs.
"With the support of AARP Iowa, I worked with Democrats and Republicans in changing the law to allow more affordable generic drugs to be made available and to help drive down costs.”
Ernst said she was partnering with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to limit costs for seniors, “and I’m proud to have AARP Iowa’s support on that as well.”
Greenfield talked about her husband, who died in a workplace accident when she had a 13-month-old and another child on the way. Social Security, she said, gave her a second chance to get back on her feet.
“When Joni Ernst has talked about privatizing Social Security, I just said no way,” Greenfield said.
“I’ll always be fighting for Medicare and Social Security,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield also opposes raising the Medicare eligibility level from 65 to 67, and she doesn’t want to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Additionally, she said, “We need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act,” which Ernst has voted multiple times to repeal.
She also wants to expand tele-health coverage, particularly in a rural state like Iowa, so people can access doctors and other health-providers from the safety of their own homes.
“Health care is the Number One topic I hear about,” Greenfield said.
Logun Buckley, organizer, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, displayed Ernst’s voting records during the session. It showed:
• Ernst has voted many times to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or dismantle it entirely.
• In 2019, Ernst voted for the bipartisan Right Rebate Act, which closes a loophole in Medicaid allowing “pharmaceutical manufacturers to mis-classify their drugs and overcharge taxpayers by billions of dollars.”
• Also in 2019, Ernst voted for the bipartisan CREATES Act, promoting drug-price competition by making it easier for medications with expired patents to be sold as less-expensive generics, he said.
• In 2017, Ernst voted against allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
“Sen. Ernst has not gotten on board with this, but we need to allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs,” Greenfield said, adding the measure will save seniors nearly $500 billion and will create competition and thus lower prices.
“We need to cap the cost of prescription drugs costs,” Greenfield said. “This should be a bipartisan issue.”
“I think we need to also allow the importing of prescription drugs,” Greenfield said. “If Iowans can get their prescriptions filled safely and cheaper from a pharmacy in Canada, we should let them do it.”
Jane Duax, of Davenport, attended the town hall because she is concerned about “the repeated talk by Republicans to eliminate Medicare, something I have paid into since my first job at the age of 16,” she said afterward.
“Having just turned 63 a few weeks ago, I have been unhappy since Paul Ryan was Speaker of the House and Donald Trump was first elected. Medicare is not an entitlement program but rather health care insurance,” she said.
Duax has paid toward it for 47 years, she said. “It was disappointing that Senator Ernst could not find the time to participate in the town hall,” she said.
Event sponsors were the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, American Association of University Women, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, Iowa Lower Drug Prices Now, National Organization for Women, Progressive Action for the Common Good, and Iowa Citizen Action Network.
Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. More than 61 million people are insured through Medicare in the United States, including more than 52 million people ages 65 and older, and 8.6 million people with disabilities.