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UI works to change student health care

BY NINA EARNEST | FEBRUARY 08, 2011 7:10 AM

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Officials will continue implementing changes to bring student health care at the University of Iowa in line with requirements mandated by the federal health-care bill regardless of numerous challenges to the law.

Legislators passed House Bill 111, allowing Iowans to opt out from any health-care system without penalty, with a 59-39 vote Feb. 2. And Iowa, under Gov. Terry Branstad, recently joined 25 other states in a lawsuit against the federal government to argue the health-care law is unconstitutional.

If approved by the Iowa Senate, the new state measure would leave the decision to use Obama’s health-care measures to employers such as the university, said Richard Saunders, the UI assistant vice president for Human Resources. And pending a major court ruling, school officials will opt to comply with the federal law.

“Most likely we would leave the coverage in place until we see where the experience is,” Saunders said.

Under the health-care act, parts of which went into effect Jan. 1, policies will cover preventative care such as vaccines and checkups, and there will be no cap on care and prescription coverage.

While Saunders has said the changes will not affect most student-insurance users, those with chronic conditions and major injuries will benefit. Routine physicals will also be covered.

Saunders said the UI’s final decision cannot be made until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue.

The conflict, said Timothy Hagle, a UI political-science associate professor, is between the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the 10th Amendment.

The 10th Amendment, he said, is designed to prevent Congress from using powers not delegated in the Constitution. Congress justified health-care reform under the Commerce Clause in Article 1 of the Constitution, granting Congress the right to regulate commerce between states.

But state legislatures still battle the federal health-care reform.

“There are a number of states which are likely doing this,” Hagle said. “It’s another way for them to challenge the law.”

He said the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide the legality of the federal mandate.

But until the Supreme Court addresses the issue, health-care reform continues to be a controversial subject in Iowa.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said it appears the bill passed in the House will cause more harm to health care rather sitting on the issue until than the Supreme Court makes a decision.

“The bill is a poke in the eye without any solution,” he said.

Jacoby said Lind Associates of Clive presented information to the state Commerce Committee on Monday demonstrating that health-care costs have been increasing nearly 11 percent per year.

Unless action is taken, he said, costs will continue will increase.

The Iowa bill’s fate remains undecided as it moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he didn’t know what would happen in the Senate. But he said he thinks the Supreme Court will decide the federal health-care act is unconstitutional.

“They can buy insurance if they want to, and we encourage people to buy insurance,” he said. “We don’t feel it’s a constitutional requirement to buy insurance.”


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