HAMPTON | During a visit to Hampton on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said there's no guarantee a Senate health care bill will cover everyone with pre-existing conditions.
The House of Representatives narrowly passed a GOP-led bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday. The Senate is expected to take up the issue after an 11-day recess.
Ernst, who visited the Hampton Public Library and several local businesses Saturday afternoon, said one of the biggest fears she is hearing from Iowans is that they will be priced out of insurance if they have a pre-existing health condition.
She noted one amendment to the bill added in the House calls for $8 billion in federal subsidies spread out over 10 years for a high-risk insurance pool for this group "so it is affordable for them."
However, "I can never say guarantee," Ernst said, noting the Senate just got the bill.
it could be weeks before she and her Senate colleagues are ready to vote on a health care bill, according to Ernst.
The Senate needs to scrutinize the amendments and look at the Congressional Budget Office score for the House bill once it is available, she said.
The CBO stated a proposed House bill from earlier this year would have left 24 million more people without insurance than under Obamacare.
That bill never made it to the House floor for a vote. The CBO score for the revised bill wasn't available yet when it was approved by the House on Thursday.
The Senate bill needs to include some flexibility, according to Ernst.
"What works in one state may not work in another state," she said.
Ernst said she want all Iowans to be able to get the coverage they need, but "we are not able to sustain what is going on right now."
She said two of the three statewide providers in Iowa's individual insurance market have already announced they will no longer sell those plans beginning in 2018 due to financial losses, and the third, Medica, has indicated it might withdraw as well.
Ernst's visit to Hampton was part of her annual tour of all 99 counties in Iowa.
Many of her county visits so far, such as Saturday's, have not included town halls.
Ernst said she generally holds those public forums in counties that are centrally located for a particular region, meaning there could be a North Iowa town hall in the future.
Ernst did speak Saturday with several invited guests at Rustic Brew, the last stop on the Hampton tour.
One of the guests, Donnis Borcherding of rural Latimer, said her adult daughter has a rare kidney disease and wasn't able to get insurance coverage before Obamacare.
After that she is able to pay premiums for insurance "just like everyone else," said Borcherding, past president of the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, during an interview with the Globe Gazette.
But now she is facing the possibility of losing that coverage, according to Borcherding.
Borcherding said according to a list of conditions defined as pre-existing in the House bill, a lot of other people could also be affected.
She said her daughter's care doesn't cost that much, noting she only has to see a doctor every six months to have blood work done and is only on a few medications.
"But as soon as everyone hears the word 'kidney,' she can't get insurance," Borcherding said.