Des Moines Register: At first town hall, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne embraces supporters and fields Iowans’ questions
March 23, 2019
Jen Steele became emotional as she spoke into the microphone.
The West Des Moines woman’s daughter was 6 when she was diagnosed with ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic disorder that has left her without 18 permanent teeth.
The defect not only affects the ability to chew but also a child’s confidence and speech. Because insurance companies consider the treatment cosmetic, Steele’s out of pocket cost was estimated up to $100,000 — more than her family’s annual income.
“As a mother, all I want for my children is to be happy, healthy and successful in life,” Steele told U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne during the congresswoman’s first town hall Saturday. But without the medical care, “that would not be possible.”
Through tears, Steele thanked Axne for co-sponsoring the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act, which would require insurance companies to cover the treatment she said her seventh-grade daughter, Alli, needs. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, also co-sponsored the bipartisan bill.
Axne embraced Steele — the representative’s first of numerous hugs in an hour.
“Right there is exactly why there needs to be a change,” Axne told more than 100 people at Valley High School in West Des Moines, where she graduated. “It comes from people stepping up and saying they’re going to get something fixed.”
During her first event to answer questions from the public, Axne, a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 3rd District, spoke of the need to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, provide better education and make “government work better for less.”
Before she was asked mostly partisan questions, Axne said the only way to solve America’s problems would be by working across the aisle “in a bipartisan fashion.”
“In order to do these things, we got to clean up Washington,” said Axne, a West Des Moines small business owner. “Boy, I didn’t know how dysfunctional it was until I actually got out there.”
At the beginning of her speech, Axne called on Iowans to help those affected by historic flooding in the western part of the state. She said she was working to create a regional task force with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to “put a stop to this.”
“This is happening too often,” said Axne, who spent time in flooded areas Friday in Fremont County. “They have nothing but the shirt on their backs.”
Axne was among Iowa politicians who urged President Donald Trump to approve the state’s application for federal aid, which he did Saturday afternoon for more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties. Gov. Kim Reynolds has put a $1.6 billion price tag on the damage.Before she fielded questions, Axne told the crowd of the need to fix the country’s “broken healthcare system,” saying she and her husband sold items online to pay hospital bills from their second son’s birth. Too many Iowans have to decide whether to pay medical bills or put food on the table, she said.
“We know the healthcare in this state and across this country is bankrupting families,” said Axne, who sits on a healthcare task force. “We just can’t afford it anymore.”
Axne found a winning message during her campaign in calling out her opponent David Young’s health care record; she was especially critical of the Republican’s 2017 vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. When she won, Axne and Democrat Abby Finkenauer were the first two women elected from Iowa to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Instead of supporting “Medicare for all” health care, Axne has said she would like to shore up the Affordable Care Act and add a public option. On Saturday, she said the option to buy into a public plan, as people can in England and Hong Kong, would force competition, ensure price reductions and provide more availability.
Among citizens’ comments were concerns about national security. One man mentioned the killing of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who authorities allege was fatally stabbed by an undocumented farmhand. Axne called the country’s safety a priority but also said there must be a pathway to citizenship for people fleeing violence in their countries.
“We all come from someplace else,” she said.
After the town hall, Axne told reporters she hopes Attorney General William Barr releases special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.
“I sure hope the attorney general does what’s right and releases those,” she said.