Iowa congressional candidates clash over health care at Coralville forum


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Seated just inches away from each other, the candidates for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District discussed a slew of issues during a candidate forum at the Coralville Public Library on Monday, but they especially clashed when it came to health-care issues.

The Johnson County Task Force on Aging and the League of Women voters of Johnson County cosponsored the forum. The candidates focused much of their energy on discussing health care in front of the roughly 200-person audience made up of primarily  senior citizens.

“We need revenue as well as budget cuts, and it’s unrealistic to expect that cuts alone primarily in waste and abuse will solve the problem,” Pat Jensen, an Obama supporter and Iowa City resident, said after the forum.

John Archer, the Republican candidate for the 2nd District, and incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, exchanged opinions about the new University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Iowa River Landing clinic. 

Archer said he believes the new clinic is an example of unnecessary spending. As a member of the Pleasant Valley School Board, he compared the clinic to a new elementary school built in the district.

“I was driving here from Bettendorf earlier today, [and] I noticed the brand-new [clinic] in Coralville,” Archer said during the forum. “And part of the problem we have found ourselves in the United States we are spending too much money. [The elementary school] is not top of the line; we don’t need top of the line.”

Loebsack said concerns about FEMA funding the clinic are the result of FEMA’s failures and Iowa taxpayers should not be held responsible. He expressed approval for the clinic’s focus, saying it was “wonderful.”

“John, I’m not sure you understand what’s happening at the new building in Coralville,” Loebsack said during the forum. “Their primary focus is primary care, and I think that’s something we understand that we need more of in the state of Iowa and throughout the country.”    

UI spokesman Tom Moore previously told The Daily Iowan that the $73 million clinic will be paid for by revenues and bonds, not taxpayer dollars nor tuition proceeds.

Loebsack and Archer differed on the direction of Medicare. Archer expressed approval for a premium-based system. A similar proposal was a part of GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget plan, which according to the plan would provide seniors full or partial payment to pay for health insurance. Archer also felt a more focused effort on waste, fraud, and abuse would help spend taxpayer money more effectively.

“We don’t have a revenue issue — we have a spending issue,” he said.

One of the forum attendees, an Archer supporter, felt that Archer’s plan would be the best to help address problems but expressed approval for more cuts if necessary.

“Let’s look at waste, fraud and abuse [in Medicare],” Charles Singleman, a Wellman-area resident, said. “And if more needs to be cut, cut it.”

Loebsack was opposed to either a premium- or voucher-based Medicare system and opposed across-the-board cuts including entitlements.

“Our seniors did not cause the problem,” Loebsack said. “We’ve got to be smart about how we do any cuts in the future. Cuts across-the-board are totally unthinkable.”

The head of the Johnson County Task Force on Aging hoped solutions could be found to avoid future cuts, but he was adamant that Medicare and other entitlement programs will exist well into the future.

“I would hope solutions could be found [to avoid cuts],” Bob Welsh said after the forum. “If I had my way, everyone would have Medicare, because I think that health care is a fundamental right.”

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