Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. August 14, 2022.

Editorial: Spin doesn’t change that Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst refused to help with insulin costs

When the chance came to put potentially decisive votes behind their words Aug. 7, the Iowa Republicans blinked.

The Inflation Reduction Act that the U.S. Senate passed last Sunday (and the U.S. House on Friday) is undeniably ambitious and full of substance, even if people argue over the wisdom of how it approaches environmental regulation and taxes.

The debate that preceded the bill’s approval, in contrast, downplayed substance in favor of all manner of partisan and parliamentary distraction, the stuff that people love to hate about Congress.

One episode stood out as a particularly galling case of elevating those distractions instead of addressing a really big problem, when 43 senators rejected a measure to make the cost of insulin more manageable for people with private insurance.

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa were among the 43. And so, increasing price tags for the indispensable medication were left as the problem of millions of insulin-dependent Americans. The Iowa Republicans’ justifications for their votes deserve a hearing, but this was a case where procedural complaints should have taken a back seat, where the bottom line should have been choosing to do some good over no good. When they get another chance, they need to vote “yes.”

There’s more to the story, of course, than just what happened during the Senate’s overnight “vote-a-rama” on proposals to amend Democrats’ climate and health care spending and taxation measure.

Tens of millions of Americans have diabetes, and millions use insulin to regulate blood sugar and stay alive. Yale University researchers said in July that 14% of insulin users — that’s over 1 million people — spent at least 40% of what they had left after food and housing on insulin.

Rationing or stopping insulin injections — which happens when people have to weigh the treatment against buying food and paying rent or a mortgage — can lead to dehydration as well as acidification of the blood. It’s deadly.

Cost has steadily become a bigger and bigger problem. Grassley has noted that the nominal average list price rose 11% annually from 2001 to 2018.

In past years, both Grassley and Ernst have spoken compellingly on the Senate floor that Americans should not have to face ruinous and rising bills for a maintenance medication that they can’t live without. So Democratic denunciations that they and other Republican “no” voters just don’t care about the plight of people with diabetes don’t really match the evidence.

Grassley, in particular, has seen fit to make onerous prescription drug prices a central focus of the finite resources and influence he possesses through his leadership role on the Senate Finance Committee. He and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, have investigated causes of high prices and price increases and put forth bipartisan legislation to try to curb them. Grassley and Ernst also have introduced a measure to make it easier to find resources to assist with the cost of insulin and other drugs.

But when the chance came on Aug. 7 to put potentially decisive votes behind their vows to reduce insulin costs, the Iowa Republicans blinked.

An amendment that used much of Grassley’s preferred framework for addressing insulin costs failed, in a 50-50 vote, a little after 10 a.m. Eastern that morning. All 50 Democrats voted no.

The very next vote, less than 30 minutes later, was to retain the bill’s $35 cap on monthly insulin costs for Americans with private health insurance. Because the provision violated the Senate’s rules for what can be included in certain budget bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act, 60 votes were needed to keep the cap in the legislation. Seven Republicans voted yes — three short of passage. And the status quo remained.

Grassley said on Twitter that the vote reflected not the merits of insulin policy but instead “Dems ignoring budget rules,” adding that he hoped senators will vote for a standalone bipartisan measure that also has a $35-a-month insulin cap. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has said in interviews that he expects to hold a vote on that measure in September.

Even if the second bill eventually earns President Joe Biden’s signature, there was no justification for Grassley and Ernst to pass up this chance to relieve pressure and fear for huge numbers of their constituents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations and adult blindness in the U.S. and the seventh-leading cause of death.

This September, Grassley and Ernst must demonstrate that they really do think it’s important to ensure that everyone can afford this life-or-death drug.

___

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. August 12, 2022.

Editorial: Our opinion: Tri-state Independent Blind Society a community asset

While the Tri-state Independent Blind Society’s name might be synonymous with bingo, to those who are visually impaired, it means so much more than that.

The nonprofit organization funds itself by hosting bingo games and selling used books. The proceeds have built a community institution that provides a low-vision center offering assessments and classes for visually impaired people.

As the agency marks 50 years in Dubuque, there’s no doubt Don Gagne would be so proud.

It was Gagne who founded the Tri-State Independent Blind Society, turning his own disability into a passion to assist others. The longtime director of the blind society died in 2020 at the age of 90. His passion and dedication left a legacy institution that continues to serve the visually impaired community of the tri-states and beyond.

Gagne had retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes a loss of cells in the retina and can lead to blindness. He rapidly began losing his sight in his 40s, when he worked at the Dubuque Packing Co.

Realizing that sight-impaired residents lacked assistance, he first founded the Dubuque Association of the Blind. Money that organization raised went to a national organization, so Gagne spearheaded the creation of the local independent blind society in 1972.

Five decades, multiple locations and countless bingo cards later, the Dubuque organization celebrates this anniversary as it continues to offer a variety of services at its facility at 1068 Cedar Cross Road. To the many long-serving supporters, volunteers and board members of the Tri-State Independent Blind Society, a salute on your half-century of service.

The positive impact that National Night Out events have on police-community relationships was on full display on a recent summer evening in Dubuque’s Comiskey Park.

Dubuque police, fire and emergency services personnel turned out in force to interact with neighborhood families. Where sometimes seeds of fear and anger are sown, here real connections are being made.

It works both ways. Law enforcement officials said connecting with members of the community can help open lines of communication that can be vital when investigating incidents in the city. After the last few years of tension and unrest between police and communities across the country, it’s great to see a bridge-building event like this taking place in downtown Dubuque.

After 175 years, the Sinsinawa Dominicans are known as preachers and teachers of the Christian faith — who also happen to make amazing cinnamon bread.

Known throughout the area for its beautiful Sinsinawa Mound campus, the sisters who have lived there over the years have brought lessons of faith through art, music, environmental stewardship and even food.

Founded in 1847 by Dominican Friar Samuel Mazzuchelli, the Sinsinawa branch of the Dominican sisters began with four women and a mission of preaching and teaching the Christian Gospel.

In 1966, membership of the Sinsinawa Dominicans peaked, with 1,983 sisters actively serving in the congregation. Today, a little fewer than 300 Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa remain, and the congregation now is looking to sell about 425,000 square feet of building space, including the Rotunda Building, St. Clara Convent and Siena Complex, to ensure the future of the congregation.

But the mission of the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters remains strong. Sinsinawa Mound still hosts a number of local arts and cultural events, runs a collaborative farming program, sells baked goods and continues to preach the Gospel. Sisters also continue to serve in 15 states and in Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago.

For 175 years, the Sinsinawa Dominicans have taken care of the land and the people in their communities. Blessings to these women as they celebrate this milestone.

END