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Iowa GOP Lawmaker Proposes Keeping Preexisting Condition Protections If ACA Struck Down

brad zaun
John Pemble / IPR
Sen. Brad Zaun

A Republican state lawmaker is proposing a bill that would retain a popular provision of the Affordable Care Act in Iowa if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the whole federal health care law.

The ACA, also known as Obamacare, prohibits insurance companies from denying health coverage to people because they have pre-existing medical problems. It includes a lot of other health care provisions, and they are all being reviewed by a federal judge in Texas as about 20 Republican-led states seek to have it thrown out in an effort backed by the Trump administration.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said if that happens, his bill would kick in.

“One thing that I did agree 100 percent about, based on some experience I had as a small business person, is that the pre-existing conditions that was part of the ACA was a great thing,” Zaun said. “The intention of this bill is to protect that in the state of Iowa.”

A final court decision on the constitutionality of the ACA, likely by the U.S. Supreme Court, is expected to take several years.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said she agrees the state should be trying to prepare for the possibility of the ACA being struck down. And she joined the two Republicans on a Senate panel Wednesday in advancing the bill.

But Petersen says she is introducing her own bill to include ACA provisions like one that allows people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26, and another that sets out health services insurance plans must cover.

“I hope we can do more to pick up other patient protections that are in jeopardy of being lost, at least for the small portion that Iowa lawmakers have the ability to help with,” Petersen said.

She also pointed out this would apply to a small fraction of Iowans, because the majority get large group health insurance through their employer. According to the Iowa Insurance Division, the bill as currently written would apply to 9 percent of Iowans, those who get individual and small group health insurance.

Zaun’s bill would keep just one part of the massive federal health care law. It also includes the federal health insurance exchange from which tens of thousands of Iowans have purchased coverage, Medicaid expansion that extended health insurance to more than 100,000 Iowans, and many other significant health care changes.

He said he would consider changes.

Republicans at the national level have tried several times to repeal the ACA.

Iowa has been in the group of states defending the law since February 2019, a step taken by Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller.

At the bill’s first hearing Wednesday, no lobbyists spoke in opposition to the bill, though several insurance and health care lobbyists were there and said they were “monitoring” the legislation.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, said there are a few issues every year when lobbyists don’t publicly say they oppose a bill, but then privately lobby against it.

“I was hoping to get some more input to learn more about this process,” Dawson said to the lobbyists in the room. “And I guess I would hope that everyone is actually monitoring this bill as opposed to actually having an informed opinion and actually start lobbying against it.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter