Ernst pushes for health care, regulatory reform during GCMH stop

Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (left) and GCMH CEO Jennifer Havens (right) converse at the hospital on Wednesday morning. The Senator visited as part of her annual 99-county tour. (Rob Maharry/The Grundy Register photo)

The fate of the Affordable Care Act and Critical Access Hospitals dominated the discussion when U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) visited the Grundy County Memorial Hospital to meet with executives, board members and local officials last Wednesday morning.


“A lot of our constituents out in these rural areas, that’s how they’re serviced is through Critical Access Hospitals, so we need to maintain them as best we can,” she said. “The federal government needs to know that one size does not fit all. We have different populations and different geographical locations, and we need to make sure that everyone has access to the care that they need.”


Ernst first watched a presentation with GCMH CEO Jennifer Havens, dietitian Crystal Petersen and community outreach manager Keely Harken on some of the initiatives the hospital has recently undertaken—including revamping the menus at local restaurants with healthier options, a weight-loss challenge, “Walk With a Doc” and diabetes prevention classes—before moving upstairs to meet with four GCMH board members, Dr. Eric Neverman, county supervisors Barb Smith and Harlyn Riekena, County Auditor Rhonda Deters and Western Home Communities CEO Kris Hansen.


The conversation during the second meeting quickly shifted toward the failed Republican push to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Donald Trump and Paul Ryan supported proposal that conservative critics dubbed “Obamacare Lite.” The AHCA never made it to the Senate, and Ernst said that she did not support the bill as it was written. 


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