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Ernst Holds Town Hall In Harlan

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Sarah Boden
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Iowa Public Radio
Audience at Sen. Joni Ernst's town hall in Harlan. (07/10/2017)

Sen. Joni Ernst held a town hall meeting in Harlan before heading back to Washington from the July 4 recess. Most of the questions she fielded focused on the Senate Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said if the slim Republican majority can’t come together, a bipartisan solution might be next. Some of the town hall's attendees favored compromise.

But while speaking with reporters, Ernst didn’t seem receptive to that idea quite yet.

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Credit Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio
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Iowa Public Radio
Sen. Joni Ernst at her town hall in Harlan. (07/10/2017)

"I think you'd lose a lot of support from the Republican conference because they really want their ideas addressed before they move on to the maybe the Democratic conference," she said. "But I want to find a way forward."

Ernst said she wants legislation that makes sure people with pre-existing conditions have insurance, and she opposes lifetime caps, two ideas progressives support.

But she also wants to allow states the power to redefine essential health benefits. And unlike Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ernst signaled that she's open to a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to allow insurance companies to sell two different policies, one  that's compliant with provisions in the Affordable Care Act and one that's not. 

Regarding Ernst's ideas surrounding repealing, replacing or repairing Obamacare, she says her staff is working on some amendments. But she won't share any details.

"I’ve talked them over with the leader. I’m not going to discuss them with an open forum," Ernst told reporters. "A lot of them will address the Medicaid situation we have here in Iowa for the elderly, disabled and children."

Ernst says it's a priority that those three groups have Medicaid coverage.