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Q: Why did you investigate insulin prices?

A: Sticker shock at the pharmacy counter is an issue I regularly hear about from Iowans. In particular, the soaring cost for one life-saving medicine, insulin, has gained greater urgency in the last several years. Stories of patients who skip or ration doses of insulin only because they can’t afford their medication raise troubling concerns. Policymakers have a responsibility to understand what’s going on in the drug pricing supply chain to protect consumers and taxpayer dollars and to ensure free markets are working as intended. …


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Q: Why is it important to keep health care clinics viable in small towns and rural communities?

A: In January, I started my annual 99 county meetings across Iowa. For the last four decades, I’ve traveled to every corner of the state to hold open dialogue with my constituents. At my recent meeting in Delaware County in Manchester, I had a Q&A with workers who manufacture state-of-the-art snow plows, salt and sand spreaders and other types of equipment that help keep our roads safe during bad weather. We covered a variety of topics, including the pandemic. The deadly coronavirus underscores why local health care services are a quality of life issue no matter your zip code, from testing, to patient care to vaccine distribution. Having a health care clinic in town also helps employers attract and retain employees, adds economic vitality to the community and gives peace of mind to residents who don’t have to travel an hour or more for urgent medical care, diagnostic and lab services or immunizations, for example. …


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Q: What is the Electoral College?

A: More than two centuries ago, the founders crafted a compromise for the election of the nation’s chief executive. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, this was one of the stickiest issues to make its way through months of debate to create a government “of, by and for the people.” The 55 delegates needed to strike a balance between large and small states, satisfy regional differences and put checks on the nation’s commander-in-chief to avert imperialism that colonial America had triumphed over in the Revolutionary War. One of the compromises to emerge was the creation of the Electoral College. …


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Q: What are you doing to protect taxpayer dollars included in the pandemic relief laws?

A: Iowans work hard for their money. I work hard to protect hard-earned tax dollars from waste, fraud and abuse. In times of emergency, such as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government provides urgently needed support and resources to help Americans who have lost homes, farms, livelihoods and paychecks. 2020 has produced one crisis after another. The virus has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Too many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Congress approved $4 trillion this year to accelerate vaccine production and send emergency assistance to help health care professionals, unemployed workers, student borrowers, foster youth, farmers, households and small businesses struggling to stay afloat. This historic federal spending will add to the nation’s $27 trillion debt. As a fiscal conservative, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Iowans don’t want to pass the buck on to our children and grandchildren. Borrowing money means every dollar consumed by interest payments means one less dollar for national security, infrastructure, health care and tax relief. The same goes for money lost to waste, fraud and abuse. For example, in the most recent $900 billion pandemic relief package, Congress approved $26 billion to help fight hunger and replenish food assistance programs. Starting Jan. 1, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will get a 15 percent bump in benefits. Lawmakers owe it to taxpayers to ensure this money is spent to feed hungry kids and their families who have fallen on hard times. Rooting out corruption, theft and fraud tied to pandemic spending is as important as ever. When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, I worked to sharpen the federal government’s anti-fraud and oversight tools. I introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure the federal watchdog tasked to oversee pandemic spending could hit the ground running. The good news is Congress approved a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery in the CARES Act. The bad news is my bill that would allow this office to get fully staffed and operational as quickly as possible wasn’t included in the most recent pandemic package. Taxpayers don’t want a dog and pony show in charge of oversight. Taxpayers deserve a watchdog with teeth and a bite to match. From my leadership posts in the U.S. …


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Q: When can Iowans expect to be eligible for immunization?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended states prioritize health care workers and long-term care residents during the initial rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency use authorization (EUA). It was an emotional and welcome day for Iowa health care providers who were among the first in the nation in mid-December to receive the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Within the first week more than 2.8 million doses were distributed and more than a half-million shots were given. Operation Warp Speed expects an additional 7.9 million vaccines to be distributed this week. The FDA delivered more good news last week when it gave the green light to a second COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna. …


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Q: How has the Paycheck Protection Program helped small businesses keep their workforce?

A: When the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe economic fall-out for small businesses across the country, Congress provided a financial lifeline to help employers stay afloat and keep their workers on payroll. The CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $349 billion fund to provide federally-guaranteed loans to small businesses administered by local lenders. The loans would be forgivable if borrowers applied at least 60 percent of the money towards payroll expenses, including employee vacation, parental, family, medical, and sick leave. …


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Q: Why is closing the digital divide so important for Rural America?

A: Connecting every home and business to high-speed internet access will open the door of opportunity for rural residents to compete in the digital economy. Rural broadband is a critical piece of the puzzle for communities to foster economic development and productivity; empower students to attain top academic achievement; and, allow workers and families to enjoy a high quality of life with a lower cost of living available in the Midwest. From homework to health care, the disparity of access to high-speed internet puts too many rural Americans at an unfair disadvantage. The digital divide contributes to gaps in education, job creation, wage growth, economic development, civic engagement and public services. The pandemic has exacerbated the divide, especially among school-age children who transitioned to online instruction and didn’t have access to reliable internet connections at home. Those without reliable, high-speed internet service face a disadvantage for remote learning, teleworking and telehealth visits. The digital divide also affects access to legal and social welfare services, such as foster care families and nursing home residents. As families spend more time at home, households have come to depend on high-speed internet access more than ever, from streaming content to online shopping, working from home and keeping in touch with loved ones. Input from Iowa families, civic leaders, educators and business people informs my work at the policymaking tables where lawmakers shape regulatory, tax, and spending policies, including efforts to build out this vital 21st century infrastructure across rural America. No matter your zip code, every Iowan deserves access to high-speed, high-quality internet service to help narrow opportunity and achievement gaps between rural and urban areas. …


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Q: What should Iowans keep in mind during Medicare open enrollment?

A: The coronavirus pandemic makes it more important than ever for Iowans to take care of their health and take charge of their health insurance decisions. Open enrollment for Medicare ends on Dec. 7. The federal agency that administers the public health insurance program advises seniors to become fully informed about Medicare coverage options and compare health and prescription drug plans for the upcoming year. Costs and coverage may change from one year to the next. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reminds enrollees that new prescription drug plans now offer many types of insulin for no more than $35/month. Iowans may compare coverage options by using the online tool Medicare Plan Finder. …


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Q: What’s your take-away on the 2020 farm economy?

A: Between the historic derecho and once-a-century pandemic, 2020 has served up unprecedented challenges for farm families across the state. Disruptions to the food supply chain delivered a reality check to Americans, reminding consumers that food does not grow in the grocery store. It also dealt a blow to pork producers and poultry growers who were forced to euthanize or donate herds and flocks when processors were shut down to protect their workforce from the coronavirus. I co-sponsored the RELIEF Act with Sen. Joni Ernst to ensure Iowa producers were eligible for indemnity relief to help keep their operations afloat and survive the crisis. Midwestern cattle producers were hung out to dry when the cash market bottomed out earlier this year. Meatpackers, who control 80 percent of the cattle market, put the brakes on cash trades, creating a historic gap between a producer’s price and a packer’s price. It reached a whopping 1,500 percent spread. This disparity doesn’t add up. Market consolidation harms independent producers who get the short end of the stick; and, sticks it to consumers who pay more for delicious burgers and steaks, nutrient-rich proteins they depend on to feed their families. This year, I’ve renewed my efforts to beef up antitrust enforcement and restore competition in the cattle market. …


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Q: Has Operation Warp Speed accelerated the development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and treatments?

A: Yes. The nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently said it has been “beyond historic.” As the novel coronavirus continues to wrap around the world, the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed has produced promising developments to combat COVID-19, the highly infectious disease that created a public health emergency and economic fall-out throughout 2020. In March, Congress approved $10 billion for the unprecedented public-private partnership, as well as $9.5 billion for additional resources for the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority that oversees public health emergencies. Marshalling the resources of the federal government across multiple agencies, Operation Warp Speed is an all-hands-on-deck partnership that has been working around-the-clock to save lives and win the war on the deadly disease. The nation’s leading innovators, scientists and public health experts have zeroed in on the same goal: to produce and deliver a safe, effective vaccine in the fastest time possible. …

About

Sen. Chuck Grassley

U.S. Senator. Family farmer. Lifetime resident of New Hartford, IA. Also follow @GrassleyPress for news releases.

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