Health Care & Medicare
There are some legislators in Iowa that seem to think that they are invulnerable to whatever sickness or illness that may be unleashed on the populace. As long as they have access to medical aid they will be OK. There concern about medicine ends at their own nose and their own wallet. They deride the idea of helping anyone else out through public funds is derided as “welfare.”
This is a truly ignorant and selfish idea. When it comes to matters that involve the whole public we need to think of the welfare of the entire citizenry first. Withholding medical care from the poor is not only ignorant and selfish, but it may bomerang on those who feel they are somehow innoculated by their money.
In recent years we have seen the rising of new bacteria and viruses that are resistant to our ability to treat them. Giving these strains of diseases what is basically a laboratory of poor people to grow and develop in is really a foolish course. Yet we have legislators who are much more tied to some short term stand on taxes than the long term good of the whole.
Once more we have a warning that there may be an evolved strain of an old bug that may cause havoc among humanity soon. If not this one there will be another and another ad infinitum. Yet if we have our doctors and clinics open only to the wealthy, you have to know medicine will not be able to hold back the ravages for long. When a fourth of our population is allowed to access only the most expensive form of health care and then only at a time of dire emergency it is like opening up the banquet hall to diseases.
In short, the question before the Iowa legislature is public health versus what exactly the other side is fighting for is a mystery. We will all be paying taxes for services we won’t be getting. So they are not saving anyone a nickel. Seems like all they are trying to do is keep an underclass of Americans who can’t access health care now as an underclass in perpetuity. I guess keeping some segment of the populace in a form of poverty must be important – we do it all the time.
If public funding were such a scourge we would be limiting access to public roads, public buildings, public parks, public schools and on down the line to those who can pay. Maybe that is the way we should conduct our society – you don’t pay, you get no access. Sound like democracy to you?
Or said another way, this can be seen as a selfish vote. In order to save money covering the use of the most expensive health care by the poor, in order to save myself and my family from epidemics or pandemics, the smart vote would be to let all people have access to preventative medical care. Besides, this is Walmart’s health care plan. Got to take care of Walmart.
Just to let you know that diseases continue a ceaseless onslaught on humans, read this story from very conservative magazine Forbes magazine.
I support the Governor’s goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by focusing on improving health outcomes and rewarding healthy behaviors. That is why the Senate has incorporated those ideas into SF 296, which would expand Medicaid and make affordable health care available to 150,000 low-income Iowans who are currently uninsured.
The Governor’s new health care proposal, on the other hand, would not do enough to help Iowa achieve the goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation. In fact, we would fall behind other states if the Governor’s plan were adopted.
The Governor’s proposal (House Study Bill 232) covers fewer Iowans and offers fewer medical services. On top of that, his plan would raise local property taxes and cost the state $150 million more than the Senate plan that I voted for.
I will continue to work with the House and the Governor to improve the health care legislation that we have already passed in the Senate. The Iowa Catholic Conference, AARP, the Iowa Hospital Association and at least 75 other Iowa organizations are in favor of the Senate bill because it would move Iowa in the direction of becoming the healthiest state in the nation.
We’re on the right track with SF 296.
ENSURING MORE IOWANS HAVE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The Legislature is continuing its bipartisan efforts to expand access to affordable health care.
Your address should not determine the health care available to you. That is why the Legislature has worked in recent years to make mental health and disability services more consistent across the state. We recently took another step toward implementing a regional mental health and disability services system that will give Iowans access to critical services, regardless of where they live.
The Senate plan (SF 415) is based on recommendations of an interim committee tasked with analyzing the fiscal viability of the mental health and disability services redesign provisions the Legislature enacted in 2012. The bill, which has now received the stamp of approved from the Senate Appropriations Committee, would:
• Authorize regions to provide mental health and disability services that research shows to be effective and efficient.
• Ensure those currently eligible for county services remain eligible after the regions are formed.
• Allow county services to continue this year while the new regions develop their service plans.
• Establish new technology standards to improve reporting and make information more available to the public online.
• Create a panel to recommend improvements for mental health and other programs for children.
The Senate plan invests $29.8 million over the next year to support local services and ensure Iowans get the care they need as we move through the transition to a regional system.
Senate File1 415 now goes to the full Senate for debate.
BUDGETING FOR BETTER PUBLIC SAFETY
We want our state to be the safest possible place for Iowans. The Justice System Budget (SSB 1249) has been approved by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee with that goal in mind.
Corrections experts and health professionals have told us that the offenders in our prisons and community-based corrections facilities are changing. Incidence of mental illness has increased, with offenders requiring more supervision and treatment. SSB 1249 provides resources to the Department of Corrections to hire the staff to meet those needs and enhance safety at our institutions.
The bill also helps Community Based Corrections Districts open facilities that have already been built but are not yet in use. This is a smart move that will help limit the wait for those in need of critical mental health services. Funding for community-based corrections also provides for efforts to deter future crime and help offenders become contributing members of their communities.
Victims’ assistance grants will see an increase in funding. These grants go to local programs that provide housing and other help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Additional resources will allow survivors to stay away from dangerous living situations, get the skills they need to hold down a job and deal with the trauma they’ve experienced.
We also increase the number of troopers on Iowa’s roads. More officers on patrol will allow them to more quickly respond to accidents and other problems—ultimately improving safety and saving lives.
SENATE CONFIRMS GOVERNOR’S APPOINTEES
So far this year, the Iowa Senate has confirmed 214 of Governor Branstad’s 216 appointees to Iowa’s statewide boards and commissions.
The Governor appoints members to more than 160 boards and commissions as openings become available. These panels are responsible for advising the Governor, the Legislature and state agencies.
The Senate must confirm the Governor’s appointees, and we take the job seriously. We review their qualifications, talk with them about their background and goals, and listen to input from Iowans. That’s the same kind of due diligence we give to every piece of legislation that comes before us.
Historically, the Senate confirms more than 99 percent of the appointees nominated by Iowa’s Governors. That trend continues as we conclude the confirmation process for the third year of Governor Branstad’s current term.
The few appointees that have failed to be confirmed over the years received serious, substantial consideration. Their non-confirmation came after concerns are addressed in a professional manner.
Learn more about Iowa’s statewide boards and commissions, the work they do and how you can serve at https://openup.iowa.gov.
ENCOURAGING OUR NEXT GENERATION OF FARMERS
Iowa’s strong agricultural heritage will continue as long as we ensure farming is a viable career for our young people. Two bills currently under consideration in the Legislature could help.
House File 599 would expand a tax credit program in which retiring farmers lease or rent land to beginning farmers. The state now provides $6 million in tax credits to retiring farmers who lease land to those starting out. HF 599 calls for doubling that amount so that beginning farmers will be eligible for tax credits if they make improvements to the farm.
This effort is supported by such organizations as the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority, which gives financial help to farmers buying land, equipment or livestock. HF 599 is now in the Senate Ways & Means Committee for further review.
Another bill, House File 457, directs the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give preference to qualified beginning farmers when current leases for DNR-managed agricultural land expire. Land may be available for crops and for grazing. The DNR must use rental history, market factors and conservation practices—instead of a competitive bid process—to determine the lease amount.
HF 457 was approved unanimously by the Senate on April 10 and will hopefully receive the Governor’s signature in the near future.
CARE FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE IOWANS
This year and every year, we want to honor our commitment to help the most vulnerable Iowans, including those in need of critical health care, older Iowans at risk for abuse and fraud, and veterans coping with medical concerns.
The Health and Human Services Budget aims to do that by:
• Providing vital legal and other decision-making assistance to older Iowans with dementia or Alzheimer’s to ensure they are protected from abuse.
• Improving long-term care by hiring more ombudsmen to meet the needs of patients and their families.
• Expanding mental health and other statewide for young children.
• Cutting the number of uninsured Iowans in half.
• Expanding access to high-quality childcare.
• Implementing programs to reduce juvenile crime and long-term crime rates.
The legislation is now being reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. To read the full bill, go to www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/LSA/SC_MaterialsDist/2013/SDJRB039.PDF.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Empowering students to adopt healthy lifestyles
Through April 30, Iowa schools can apply for private funding to participate in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. General Mills Foundation and other partners are offering public schools this chance to acquire assessment tools, professional development and education for physical educators, and awards and recognition for students. To learn more, go to www.presidentialyouthfitnessprogram.org and click on “Funding Opportunity.”
Submit work for Agriculture Art Award
Iowa artists of all ages are invited to participate in the second annual Celebration of Iowa: Agricultural Art Award. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “Cultivating Change.”
The Agriculture Art Award is a juried art exhibit that highlights our state’s role as a global leader in agriculture. Art work will be judged on innovation of concept, execution of contest theme, and the aesthetic and technical quality of the work.
The exhibit, which features $5,000 in cash prizes in youth and adult divisions, is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.
The submission deadline is July 1. Full details are available at www.iowaagriculture.gov/press/pdfs/2013/AgArtAward2013.pdf.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Healthiest Iowa Initiative to Hold “Medicaid Madness” Rallies Across the State on Sunday, Tuesday
27 organizations have joined and more than 1,200 have signed the petition with the Healthiest Iowa Initiative, including small business owners, health care providers, and citizen organizations
DES MOINES — The Healthiest Iowa Initiative today announced locations and details for Sunday’s “Medicaid Madness” rallies that will be held on Sunday, April 7th and Tuesday, April 9th. The rallies, which will educate Iowans about Medicaid expansion and ask them to contact Governor Branstad to support Medicaid expansion, will take place in Des Moines, Waterloo, and Ames. More information about the Healthiest Iowa Initiative can be found at www.healthiestiowa.com.
Update: After Governor Branstad released his health care plan late Thursday night, several members of the Healthiest Iowa Initiative have offered statements in response:
STATEMENT FROM MATT SINOVIC, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PROGRESS IOWA
“Governor Branstad’s plan puts politics first and the health of Iowans dead last. His plan falls short of providing quality care and leaves thousands of Iowa families with no health care security. Most importantly, the Governor has reached the height of hypocrisy by embracing a plan that relies on federal funding, which has been his stated reason to reject Medicaid expansion until this point.”
STATEMENT FROM SUE DINSDALE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF IOWA CITIZEN ACTION NETWORK
“It’s clear that Governor Branstad’s so-called health care plan is more costly and considerably narrower than Medicaid expansion, the fact of the matter is that Medicaid expansion is simply a better policy than “TerryCare”. Iowa Citizen Action Network continues to call on the Governor to insure 150,000 Iowans. There simply is no alternative. Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do morally, and the right thing to do fiscally. Governor Branstad – don’t opt for an inferior program that will be a disservice to Iowans… say yes to Medicaid Expansion.”
STATEMENT FROM JAN LAUE, PRESIDENT OF IOWA ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS
“Governor Branstad’s plan costs more, covers fewer Iowans and appears to be an administrative nightmare. Expanding Medicaid is still the sensible option.”
STATEMENT FROM KEN SAGAR, PRESIDENT OF THE IOWA FEDERATION OF LABOR, AFL-CIO
“This Governor has had over nine months to come up with an alternative to Medicaid expansion, and unfortunately the best thing he can come up with is tired old ideas. This plan leaves tens of thousands of Iowans out of health insurance coverage, and would even drop enrollees if they miss one co-payment. The bottom line is still this: compared to Medicaid expansion, this plan will cost Iowa more and cover less people. We look forward to a public hearing that will show the public just how wrong this plan is.”
STATEMENT FROM KELLI SOYER, CO-CHAIR OF THE IOWA HUMAN NEEDS ADVOCATES
“Medicaid Expansion will benefit all of Iowa. The program will assist working and low-income Iowans access the Iowa health care system. Expansion will improve overall health outcomes. Medicaid
Expansion is good for Iowa!”
“Medicaid Madness” Upcoming Events (note: the Davenport event has been postponed)
WHEN: Sunday, April 7th, 2:00 PM
WHERE: Lincoln Park, East 4th & Franklin, Waterloo, Iowa
WHAT: Rally/Press Conference in support of Medicaid Expansion
WHO: Belinda Creighton-Smith, Pastor
Keenan Crown, University of Northern Iowa student
Chris Schwartz, Organizer, Working Families Win
Midge Slater, Organizer, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Faith Temple Baptist Choir
WHEN: Sunday, April 7th, 2:00 PM
WHERE: West Capitol Steps, East 9th & Grand Ave, Des Moines, Iowa
WHAT: Rally/Press Conference in support of Medicaid Expansion
WHO: Senator Jack Hatch, Des Moines
Jan Laue, President, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network
Felicia Chumley, Financial Counselor, ISED Ventures
WHEN: Tuesday, April 9th, 7:45 AM
WHERE: Outside the Scheman Center on Iowa State University campus, the corner of Beach & Lincolnway, Ames, Iowa
WHAT: Rally/Press Conference in support of Medicaid Expansion prior to the Governor’s Conference on Public Health
WHO: Dr. Selden Spencer, Physician, Ames
Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network
Matt Sinovic, Executive Director, Progress Iowa
Accepting Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 150,000 Iowans – uninsured young adults, veterans, the working poor, and mentally ill. Although he has objected to expansion because of a potential failure on the part of the federal government to honor its commitments, Governor Branstad’s alternative plan costs Iowa more and still relies on the federal government for funding. Although the Iowa Senate passed full Medicaid expansion, the House will likely adopt the Governor’s plan and negotiations will continue. As they do, participants in the Healthiest Iowa Initiative will continue to reach out to their elected officials to make sure the voices of Iowans are heard.
The 27 organizations participating in the Healthiest Iowa Initiative include
AFSCME Iowa Council 61
Americans for Democratic Action
Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa
Disability Rights Iowa
Hawkeye Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Iowa Citizen Action Network
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Iowa Human Needs Advocates
Iowa Main Street Alliance
Iowa Mental Health Planning Council
Iowa Olmstead Consumer Task Force
Iowa State Education Association
Iowa Statewide Independent Living Council
NAMI Greater Des Moines
National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter
Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa
Progressive Action for the Common Good
SEIU Local 199
South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Working Families Win.
In addition to learning about Medicaid expansion at Medicaid Madness events, Iowans are encouraged to sign the following petition at www.healthiestiowa.com: Iowa has the opportunity to approve a Medicaid expansion as part of Obamacare. We call on Governor Branstad to take this opportunity to help thousands of Iowans rather than pursue a plan that costs more, covers fewer and has no guarantee of federal funding. There are no real reasons – only political rhetoric – for failing to support Medicaid expansion in Iowa.
One of my long held principles is that most people do not act on a problem until it directly affects them. If you have a job that was anything like mine, that was a principle that played out nearly every day. Management would be told by workers that unless THIS was fixed then THAT would happen. Invariably it did, because management’s usual response to the warnings was to ignore the workers. In my particular capacity there were a couple of major computer problems that were never thought of in the design stage. I and others warned and warned, but nothing happened until in the middle of the night that the problems came to a head.
Similar things are happening in our state and country. Rob Portman, a Republican senator from Ohio if you didn’t know, has spent his political career stating the standard Republican line about gays. You know the drill – marriage is a man and a woman, being gay is a choice, being gay is an aberration, gay people shouldn’t get special rights – on and on and on. And he could get away with it because in his world he knew no problems with his stands.
But as you all know, a glitch happened – Portman’s son came out as gay – two years ago. And Dad was there to support him after he made sure that his son’s ‘aberration’ would not hurt him politically. But it was just sad, so sad that Dad Portman couldn’t have done the right thing long ago and declared that a person’s sexuality is really none of his business. And as far as marriage equality goes, citizens should have a right to choose their partners and all should get whatever benefits the state gives to married people, no matter their sexuality.
It was sadder still that Dad Portman didn’t embrace his son publicly after he came out 2 years ago. Instead he had to make sure there was no political fallout. He didn’t have the guts to do the right thing. My children are my children and I love them unconditionally. So does Rob Portman – now – sort of. Will it take every politician (and SCOTUS justice) to have a gay child before they can have their eyes open to what this country is doing to its gay citizens? When you look at what a miserable human being Dick Cheney is, his one redeeming value is his attitude toward gays. But of course that is due to having a gay child.
Similarly, what would it take for a Terry Branstad to realize what a horrible and terrifying game he is playing with people’s lives? Will it take one of his sons to go broke and then be denied access to Medicaid to cover his childrens health? Obviously our governor can’t see beyond the cash in the outstretched hand of the lobbyist or ALEC representative. Certainly there needs to be some event to bring our governor’s attention to the reality of a major portion of Iowa’s citizens. Most of us do not get two large paychecks and live in a mansion.
Back in the day, I believe it was Harry Truman was asked how to get a mule to do some work. Truman said first you take a 2×4 and hit the mule upside the head . That was to get his attention. Sadly, it appears many of our Republican friends need their attention grabbed to understand what real Americans are living through these days. Right now their attention is focused, like Branstad’s, on that wad of cash in the lobbyist’s fist.
[Note from BFIA: Tonight at 5 pm you can watch the Medicaid expansion debate live from the state capitol here]
Today, a group of Iowa organizations, including AFSCME Iowa Council 61, announced the formation of the Healthiest Iowa Initiative.
The goal of the Healthiest Iowa Initiative is to expand Medicaid in Iowa. Medicaid expansion would expand health coverage to up to 150,000 Iowans who currently receive too little care (or no care), too late. Expanding Medicaid makes the most sense for the public health and the fiscal health of our state. It’s also the right thing to do.
Governor Branstad has stated that he opposes Medicaid expansion in Iowa. His position is unwise and does not align with Iowa values.
I strongly encourage you to visit www.healthiestiowa.com and sign the petition in favor of Medicaid expansion in Iowa.
Expanding Medicaid is the number one thing Iowa can do to make our state healthier.
Danny Homan, President
AFSCME Iowa Council 61
P.S. In addition to signing the petition, please spread the word. Forward this to your friends and family. Spread the word about the Healthiest Iowa Initiative using social media. Together, we can make a difference!
Misconceptions still abound about Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act. It is not astonishing or mysterious how so many people come up with so many wrong ideas. Fox News, conservative talk radio, and the regular corporate media pretending to take them and the GOP seriously, combine to create mass confusion in all things these days. But if you were reading Blog for Iowa between February 10, 2009 and June 29, 2011, you do not have these misconceptions, thanks to BFIA’s own expert, Dr. Alta Price who published over 80 posts, explaining the facts and nuances of Obamacare in her weekly Health Care Reform Updates. If you missed them, you can still access them by typing “health care reform updates” or “Alta Price” in the BFIA search box.
Thursday marks the three-year anniversary of Congress’ passage of the health care reform law. And although Obamacare has had a high profile throughout the past several years of political fights over health reform, that hasn’t ensured that Americans understand what the law actually does. Even after three years, many Americans are still confused about Obamacare’s specific provisions, and can’t correctly identify what is and isn’t in the health law.
According to a new Kaiser Health tracking poll, a plurality of Americans incorrectly believe the health law cuts Medicare benefits, establishes “death panels,” gives health benefits to undocumented immigrants, and contains a public option. The idea that Obamacare includes a public option is the biggest misconception about it, as 57 percent of respondents asserted that they believed the law has a public health insurance option — compared with just 28 percent who know it doesn’t:
www.ProgressIowa.org Contact: Matt Sinovic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (515) 423-0530
MARCH 4TH, 2013
Iowans deserve apology from Branstad for comparing denying access to health care to closing down a cash bar.
DES MOINES — During a press conference this morning where he announced his latest effort to avoid Medicaid expansion and deny Iowans adequate health coverage, Governor Terry Branstad compared state employees and Iowans without health insurance to people needing to be cut off at an open bar during a wedding:
“It’s like former Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota said, it’s like going to a wedding where you have an open bar versus a cash bar,” Branstad said. “There’s going to be a whole lot more liquor consumed with an open bar.”
Watch the full video here: http://youtu.be/1o_Zfa-0ITM
In response, Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement:
“Governor Branstad owes Iowans an apology. Thousands of families and veterans across the state already live without the security of receiving quality health care because of Branstad’s stubborn political refusal to expand Medicaid. The last thing they need to hear is the Governor comparing their health care to a cash bar.”
“It is long past time for expanded Medicaid in Iowa. Compared to the plan Branstad announced today, Medicaid would cover more Iowans and cost our state less. It should be an easy decision.”
“Governor Branstad should apologize immediately for his inappropriate remarks, and take the necessary steps to expand Medicaid, for the benefit of all Iowans.”
The plan proposed by Branstad today would cover fewer Iowans and cost the state more, compared to opting for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Several states, including eight led by Republican Governors, have opted for expanded Medicaid.
February 21st, 2013
Contact: Matt Sinovic
‘Two Paycheck’ Terry Branstad Should be Ashamed for Fundraising off His Denial of Health Coverage to Iowans
Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Terry Branstad sent a fundraising email Thursday morning, asking for $14 to ‘fight back’ against those who oppose his decision to reject health coverage for as many as 150,000 Iowans.
In response, Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement:
“Terry Branstad should be ashamed of himself, and is proving yet again to be a typical politician in every negative sense of the word. Thousands of hard-working Iowa families live without the security of receiving quality health coverage they need because of Branstad’s stubborn, politically motivated refusal to expand Medicaid. Meanwhile, Two Paycheck Terry takes two salaries for doing one job, and has his health care provided by our tax dollars. Instead of fundraising off of the plight of his constituents, he should be doing something to fix the problem.”
Branstad has repeatedly refused to allow the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would give access to health coverage to thousands of Iowans, including as many as 5,000 Iowa veterans without access to care.
Price of Politics: Gov. Branstad fundraising from Medicaid decision
Rick Scott Reverses Course, Becomes 7th GOP Governor to Accept Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion
Branstad’s Medicaid refusal will result in 5,000 uninsured veterans
Our state faces a critical question this spring: What’s the best way to expand affordable health care to more Iowans? Our choice is between expanding Medicaid or continuing IowaCare. Expanding Medicaid is the right choice, and it is probably our only choice. Here’s why.
IowaCare is a state-run insurance program providing limited health care services to about 60,000 Iowans who do not currently qualify for Medicaid. Under IowaCare, patients have a very limited choice of doctors and must often travel great distances for care.
In addition, IowaCare does not cover many important services, including mental health care and prescription drugs. The program is also costly. The annual cost to Iowans is $76 million—and that doesn’t include the millions of dollars in uncompensated care provided to IowaCare patients.
How much will Medicaid expansion cost the State of Iowa? Nothing for the first three years, and no more than 10 percent of the overall cost by 2020.
In fact, expanding Medicaid is projected to save Iowa up to $206 million over the next seven years. County governments will save up to $65 million annually, which is good news for property taxpayers. Most importantly, 150,000 uninsured Iowans will have access to high-quality life-saving health care. That’s a plus for families, communities and businesses.
The choice is simple. IowaCare costs more, provides less and helps fewer Iowans. Expanding Medicaid costs less, offers more and helps 150,000 Iowans get the affordable health care they need.
IMPROVING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT REQUIRES A TIMELY INVESTMENT
One of the top priorities of the Iowa Senate this session is providing the necessary funding for our schools for the upcoming 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. This decision has already been delayed too long and it is a real problem for local school boards.
This problem started last year when the House and Governor Branstad refused to follow state law. For the last 20 years, Iowa has required basic aid to local students to be set 18 months before the start of a school year.
In the Senate, we’re working to get us back on track, and supporting local students and teachers. We’ve approved a 4 percent increase in basic funding—also known as “allowable growth”—for the next two school years. In both cases, we’ll do it without raising property taxes. Schools rely on these dollars to buy up-to-date textbooks, keep the lights on, gas up the buses and pay school employees.
The Senate is following the Iowa school funding law signed in 1995 by then Governor Branstad, which is designed to provide local schools with sustainable, stable funding.
Failure to act is creating a crisis in Iowa schools. In a recent survey of Iowa school superintendents, 87 percent said that failing to determine aid to local schools before March 1 will result in teacher layoffs, crowded classes and harm to student achievement.
The House this week finally addressed school funding by cutting in half the Senate’s 4 percent increase in basic state aid for both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. The House’s half-hearted action sends the wrong message to local school districts, parents, students and educators. After several lean years, our local schools tell us they need a strong investment to ensure our students get a world-class education.
Another item on our agenda for this session is continuing efforts to increase student achievement, boost teacher quality and develop innovative education reforms. There is clear bipartisan support for this effort, but the immediate need is for the Governor and House to quickly comply with state law to ensure our schools can avoid layoffs and other harmful cuts.
FIRST LAW OF SESSION HELPS FAMILIES, SMALL BUSINESS, FARMERS
Tax cuts should focus first on helping Iowa families, farmers and small businesses. We kept that focus with the first bill to pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by the Governor this session.
Senate File 106 will help grow our economy by updating Iowa’s tax code in light of the recent changes at the federal level.
The new law prevents a cut in the family friendly Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit through 2017. It also makes permanent the child and dependent care tax credits, as well as the student loan interest deduction. A deduction of up to $250 in out-of-pocket expenses by Iowa teachers is extended for an additional two years.
Another provision provides a nearly $20 million boost to the Iowa economy. It allows small businesses and farmers to immediately write off up to $500,000 in new equipment rather than spreading that deduction over several years through depreciation.
DROUGHT COULD HAVE BIG IMPACT ON WATER SUPPLY
The drought of 2012 withered crops, stressed livestock and browned lawns and gardens across the state. But that could be just the beginning if the shortage of precipitation persists.
Months of dry weather are shrinking sources of water all around Iowa. Communities that rely on shallow wells, rivers and reservoirs are searching for alternative sources. Some areas of northwest Iowa already face dangerously low water levels, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
When water shortages strike, utilities will take various voluntary measures to reduce overall water use while continuing to meet critical needs. These steps could include restrictions on lawn watering, car washing and other non-essential water uses. In extreme cases, the state and the local water utility may mandate steps to protect water supplies for home, livestock, farming, utility and industrial uses.
There are many simple ways to conserve water in our homes and businesses. For some great tips from Iowa State University Extension on how to use less water in day-to-day life, go here.
SECURE PRISONS ENHANCE PUBLIC SAFETY
Legislators recently visited the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women at Mitchellville and the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, where new prison buildings are now under construction.
After a 2005 escape by two prisoners from Fort Madison, Iowa made a comprehensive review of our state’s prison system. Some parts of the current penitentiary in Fort Madison were built in 1839, which raises safety concerns for prison staff and the surrounding community. The women’s prison was originally a girls’ school and not intended for prisoners. In addition, the number of offenders currently housed at these prisons exceeds capacity.
The Legislature ultimately decided that additional facilities where needed at Mitchellville, as well as a new maximum security prison in Fort Madison. These new buildings will ensure our prisons are more safe and secure. Both prisons are scheduled to begin opening in the next year.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
UPCOMING PUBLIC FORUMS
Saturday, March 02
Muscatine County Legislative Forum
At Muscatine Community College
Saturday, March 02
Wapello Legislative Forum
At the State Bank of Wapello
The slide to the left was part of a presentation by Greg Moody, head of Ohio Gov. John Kasich Office of Health Transformation given to the Ohio legislature. Ohio has decided to upgrade to Medicaid Expansion.
Lately I have been wondering what motivates Governor Branstad in some of his decisions. I would like to think that the good of the whole population of Iowa would be the first consideration. But his stand against the expansion of Medicaid in conjunction with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act smells like the Republican Party’s desire to make Obama look bad is his first consideration.
It is even beginning to look moreso like that with now that some of the most anti-Obama governors in the country have decided to do the best thing for their people. With Rick Scott in Florida coming on board Wednesday, the list of virulent anti-Obama governors who will adopt Medicaid Expansion includes Snyder of Michigan, Kasich of Ohio and Brewer of Arizona among others.
They seem to know a couple of things that maybe they would like to share with Branstad:
1) Their citizens will be paying taxes to support Medicaid Expansion, but won’t get any advantage unless they join.
2) With the ACA in effect for nearly a year by election day, 2014, explaining why they decided to not let some people have medical care will be hard to do.
3) Having the US government pick up the tab for Medicaid for 3 years could really help the state budget.
4) The 90/10 split even for a larger number of people may not cost much more than the current 60/40 split.
5) Hospitals will now get paid for bills they were previously unable to get paid for.
6) Thus hospitals will not have to pad the bills of those who are insured. Thus insurance premiums may actually come down.
7) And finally, with more people accessing medical services, there will be jobs created.
Branstad’s math on many things has been quite suspect. For instance, when Iowa adds 18,000 jobs, Branstad reports a 120,000 increase. But I would think even he could see that covering 150,000 more people for slightly more money while insurance premiums stay level or maybe even drop is a real plus.
The federal government picks up the bill for the first three years on Medicaid Expansion. After that the split goes to a 90/10 split with the feds picking up the 90% Branstad has expressed concern that that 90% will slip in the future. It may, we don’t know. But for making a decision today, the governor must go with the reality that is and not the unreality he dreams. The republican Party these days is mired in a world of unreality that is incapable of dealing with reality. Governor, please look at the reality and make the decision for the good of all of Iowa. Folks, if you can, write your legislator and the governor to try to persuade them that Medicaid Expansion is a policy the majority of Iowa supports. You can find your legislator here. The governor’s office can be contacted here or by phone at 515-281-5211.