A representative of Senator Joni Ernst met at the Benton County Courthouse on Thursday with members of the community. A major concern expressed by residents was about the Republican house plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Residents mentioned concern that the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and other groups have stated that many fewer people would be covered under the plan as it currently stands. There was also concern that by making changes in the tax provisions the new plan would add significantly to the nation’s deficit.

Another community member mentioned concern about the future of Americorps and NCCC in Vinton. The situation regarding the potential sale of the braille school was brought to Senator Ernst’s representative and there was concern expressed that losing these programs, which represent a very small portion of the federal budget, would have a major impact on the community.

Potential changes to Medicaid and the impact that would have on many segments of the population was discussed. Several complaints were voiced about the for-profit companies managing Medicare in Iowa under changes made by Governor Branstad. The issues brought up included late payments to providers, and restrictions in coverage, and the possibility that the companies will be asking for much more money in the future. Though Medicaid at the federal level is an issue decided by Congress, Iowa’s change to managed care organizations is an issue outside federal responsibility.

Cuts to the EPA budget and the impact on air quality was the concern of one community member who provided statistics about the savings in lives and health care costs because of cleaner air. Iowa currently ranks as the 17th worst state for air quality and particulates in the atmosphere cause many hospitalizations and respiratory illnesses in Iowa.

Wait times and quality issues for the Veteran’s Administration was a topic as well. Though it was reported that VA facilities nearby get high marks from patients, it was a concern that there can be significant wait times to get in.

The last community member thanked Senator Ernst’s representative for being in Vinton as many others did, then shared his concern that plans to reduce the deficit, put forth by Simpson and Bowles was ignored. He shared that it isn’t possible to just tax our way out of the deficit, nor is it possible to just cut spending to achieve deficit reduction goals.