Des Moines Register: At first town hall, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne embraces supporters and fields Iowans' questions

March 23, 2019
In The News

Des Moines Register, Luke Nozicka, 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." 

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Photo Credit: Luke Nozika/The Register