By ROBYN ABZUG
From health care coverage for children, to affordable prescription drugs for seniors, Loebsack said there is momentum in Congress that could lead to universal health care coverage in the United States.
Loebsack, who defeated long-term Republican Jim Leach for Iowa’s 2nd District seat in the mid-term elections, said in an interview that there are a number of important health care issues facing Congress today. He cited lowering prescription drug costs for seniors as one of those topics, as well as a recent House bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem-cell research.
“Of course, I voted for that bill,” Loebsack said. “There are a lot of diseases out there that could be cured in the not too distant future if we expand stem-cell research.”
He said that complete health care coverage for children is one of the most critical issues facing Congress right now. Recently, Congress reauthorized the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), a program that helps families get health insurance coverage if they earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. Furthermore, Loebsack said that there will be many bills offered this year from others in Congress like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), that will begin the process of covering all children in the United States.
“I’d rather have something that is comprehensive,” he said in response to all of the upcoming legislation, “but I also recognize that’s not something that’s likely in the short term.”
Loebsack said his long term goal is complete health insurance for all U.S. residents, which was one of the key issues of his 2006 campaign. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 46 million Americans without health insurance and nearly 10 percent of Iowans without health care.
Loebsack himself grew up primarily in poverty with his mother and grandmother, and rose to success with the help of successful government programs, such as the Social Security his family received after the death of his father, according to his Web site.
“All of these other health care issues are leading toward some sort of universal health care eventually,” he said. Loebsack recently co-sponsored a House resolution that is making its way through House subcommittees that would do just that. House Resolution 676, or The United States National Health Insurance Act, would provide U.S. residents with free health care that would include all medically-necessary care through a publicly-funded and privately-delivered system while expanding Medicare to all residents.
To succeed in Congress, Loebsack draws on his work as a college professor at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, to guide him through his first time in the world of politics, at least in part. He said those experiences gave him “a pretty good sort of intellectual understanding of what I was in for, but at the same time it didn’t prepare me on a day to day basis for dealing with the fast pace of the institution.”
Going along with Loebsack for the congressional experience is his wife Teresa, an elementary school teacher who is also on the Iowa State Education Association, and their four adult children, Jennifer, Sarah, Marcos and Madeleine.
While Loebsack said he is having a bit of fun along the way, being a freshman in Congress is still a difficult job.
“There’s a very steep learning curve that I’m facing,” he said. “I’m pretty confident along those lines, but it’s an overwhelming job, and I think I’m up to it. I know I’m up to it.”