Archive for December 5, 2010
Iowans Will Accept the Affordable Care Act
by Paul Deaton
Each passing day diminishes the likelihood of repealing the Affordable Care Act in the 112th Congress. In explaining the law, the insurance companies are also creating a grassroots awareness of its benefits. Ultimately, the groundswell will be unstoppable as citizens begin to take for granted the positive aspects of “Obamacare” and acceptance grows. It has already begun.
At a meeting with seniors in our small town, the insurance agent said that the Affordable Care Act was getting a bad rap when it comes to seniors. It helps fill the “doughnut hole” left by Medicare Part D, the prescription drug aspect of Medicare. During his presentation, the agent was supportive of the Affordable Care Act and not one negative for seniors could be substantiated during the presentation. The seniors in the room were quiet, listening intently as they do when it comes to Medicare, assimilating what pertained to them. By the end of the meeting, the session built support for the new law.
A few days ago, the author received a letter from his health insurance provider titled, “How Health Care Reform Will Impact Your Health Plan.” It was not a price increase.
Because the plan started before March 23, 2010, it is a “grandfathered” plan under the Affordable Care Act. More specifically, there is a mandate in the law that expands coverage for dependent children up to age 26. The notice from the insurance company was to consider a new option for our health plan, whether to add our daughter to the plan during a special enrollment period. Whether we need it or not, this option did not exist and was welcome. Not only would it be welcomed by us, but also for many others who are receiving the same letter.
There was an amendment to our health insurance benefits certificate enclosed and it included:
Deletion of benefit maximums and service limitations for certain organ transplants.
Methodologies for adding or removing members to the policy that are more favorable.
More favorable child coverage eligibility terms.
All of these changes were positive and reflective of the promise that the Affordable Care Act would help middle class families. We don't tend to believe things like this until we hear it from the insurance company, and now they have spoken.
Like with everything, there is a cost to making the changes. Last year our policy went up by 18% and we expect an increase during the annual renewal this year. But so far, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Although Iowa's Representative Steve King has led the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his work in that initiative has been made more difficult as insurance companies weigh in and people discover the real and positive change the law has already brought to middle class lives. Ultimately, Iowans will accept the Affordable Care Act.
Energy Advocacy for Iowa Progressives
by Paul Deaton
a burgeoning world population, expected to reach between 8 and 10
billion people by the year 2050, the prognosis for controlling release
of additional greenhouse gases is poor if we don't get a grip on
reducing carbon emissions. Heaven help us when Africa turns the lights
The trouble in advocating for a change in how electricity is produced and delivered in Iowa is that the stuff is so darn cheap on the monthly bill. It is easy to leave the computer on, or the mobile phone charger plugged in because the direct financial consequences are minimal. Most Blog for Iowa readers understand that the price on our electricity bill is not an “all in” price, excluding costs to the environment and to our health. Nonetheless, once we change our light bulbs to compact florescent or LED and weatherstrip our doors and windows, one feels it is time to move to areas of more consequence when it comes to how we spend our limited advocacy time. For most Iowans, advocating for change in electricity sourcing and use does not make the cut.
Some of us continue to believe that planetary warming and climate change pose one of the gravest threats to survival of our species. It is undeniable that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and these emissions are tied, in part, to electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. With a burgeoning world population, expected to reach between 8 and 10 billion people by the year 2050, the prognosis for controlling release of additional greenhouse gases is poor if we don't get a grip on reducing carbon emissions. Heaven help us when Africa turns the lights on.
It seems unlikely that politicians will take action to mitigate planetary warming until it is too late.
Iowa's Governor Chet Culver did nothing to stop the construction of new coal fired power plants in the state, despite appeals from public health officials and environmental advocacy groups.
The Vilsack administration's initiative to create a business environment for construction of new coal fired power plants resulted in one new plant in Council Bluffs, which increased the health expenses within the state, mostly related to human mortality. The other two plants under this initiative were scuttled as banks and utility companies realized that the uncertain political climate regarding carbon regulation created potential costs that had not been factored into their financial model. After the 2010 midterms, substantive federal legislation to regulate carbon emissions seems unlikely and the prognosis for the 112th Congress was stated succinctly by Republican operative Karl Rove, “climate is gone.”
Regarding nuclear power, the Iowa Senate debate over HF2399 was not a debate at all, but more of a ramming through of an idea to conduct a study of nuclear power that was predetermined at the outset. We may never know who was behind this initiative, but Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy was the beneficiary.
If legislative solutions have proven ineffective in changing how electricity is produced and delivered, the small bands of activists picking away at specific issues are not any better. Jane E. Magers, self described “lone concerned citizen,” is a case in point. Magers recently attempted to organize a response to Thomas Saporito's petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to change the way the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, Iowa was repairing a nozzle in the plant. Magers struggled to gain support for a press release on the issue, and was unable to do so before NextEra Energy, the nuclear facility's owner, announced that the repair had been made. This type of small scale, single issue advocacy has also proven to be ineffective.
So what can we do? Part of my experience during the 2010 campaign was several conversations with Secretary of Agriculture candidate Francis Thicke. He said that what is needed to change agriculture is someone setting up a working example of what change looks like. Once farmers saw that it worked, they would adopt it. Applying this concept to the production and delivery of electricity is no different. What is lacking in Iowa is innovation, required capital and a compelling reason for electric utilities, consumers and politicians to change behavior. Being right on the perils of climate change and planetary warming, coupled with advocacy for controlling carbon emissions has not been compelling enough.
There is always strength in numbers, but finding a unifying issue regarding energy has proven to be difficult, and issues chosen, ineffective. The next step for advocacy for a new energy system should clear the slate and begin anew with a focus on locating the compelling model that will meet our electricity needs without further harm to human health and the environment. It is a tall order, but considering our history and our options, it may be the only viable path.
~Paul Deaton is a
native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of
Blog for Iowa. E-mail