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medicaid expansion

PREPARE FOR MEDICAID CHANGES THAT BEGIN APRIL 1

brase headline

info from Senator Brase on Medicaid privatization

Despite our repeated efforts to stop or delay it, Governor Branstad’s ill-conceived plan to turn over management of Iowa Medicaid to three out-of-state companies becomes a reality for 560,000 Iowans on April 1.

Medicaid recipients, health care providers and advocates are worried and frustrated about how this major shake-up will impact our elderly and Iowans with disabilities. Senate Democrats will continue fighting for them by pushing for tough oversight and accountability to keep Iowa’s health care safety net strong.

In the meantime, here are some resources to help Iowans transition to the new system:

Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) will offer health coverage to most Medicaid recipients and work directly with them regarding their coverage beginning April 1.

Amerigroup Iowa, Inc.
Phone: 1-800-600-4441
Web: www.myamerigroup.com/IA

AmeriHealth Caritas
Phone: 1-855-332-2440
Web: www.amerihealthcaritasia.com

UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley
Phone: 1-800-464-9484
Web: www.UHCCommunityPlan.com/ia

Medicaid Member Services will assist Medicaid recipients with questions and concerns about health care coverage, MCO enrollment, and which MCOs their health care provider has signed up with.

Toll Free: 1-800-338-8366
Local: 515-256-4606
Website: www.IAHealthLink.gov
Email: IMEMemberServices@dhs.state.ia.us

Iowa Medicaid Provider Services will enroll health care providers with Iowa Medicaid and assist with eligibility and MCO questions. Providers must also contract with MCOs to be reimbursed for health care services to Medicaid members.

Toll Free: 1-800-338-7909
Local: 515-256-4609
Email: IMEProviderServices@dhs.state.ia.us

Special Hours for Managed Care Transition

The Iowa Medicaid Enterprise (IME) will have call staff available Saturday, April 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist members and providers with the transition to managed care. The Managed Care Organizations will also have special hours.

IME Member Services
Toll Free: 1-800-338-8366
Des Moines Area: 515-256-4606

IME Provider Services
Toll Free: 1-800-338-7909
Des Moines Area: 515-256-4609

Amerigroup Iowa, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-800-454-3730
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 2-3
Member Services: 1-800-600-4441
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 2-3

AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-855-287-7855
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 2-3
Member Services: 1-855-332-2440
24 hours a day, seven days a week.

UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-888-650-3462
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 2-3
Member Services: 1-800-464-9484
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 2-3

The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

The following are excerpts from Sen. Courtney’s newsletter. The full newsletter can be seen here.

BIPARTISAN OVERSIGHT WILL PROTECT VULNERABLE IOWANS
Despite its disappointing and troubling start, the Branstad-Reynolds Medicaid privatization plan is moving forward. Our job now is to ensure Iowa’s health care safety net remains strong. After all, every one of us is just one accident or illness away from needing Medicaid help.

If your parent, spouse or child has a severe disability, chances are they’ll be on Medicaid. In fact, most Medicaid dollars help our elderly and Iowans with disabilities. We’ll protect them with tough, bipartisan oversight and accountability measures for the out-of-state corporations that will be running the program.

Senate File 2213, which won bipartisan approval in the Senate, will safeguard the interests of Medicaid members, encourage the participation of health care providers, and ensure the tax dollars of hard-working Iowans are spent properly.

We’ll also continue to make system improvements by:

* Requiring stronger consumer protections, rate and payment regulation, data collection and evaluation.
* Creating a fund to finance improvements.
* Providing a comprehensive review of program integrity.
* Enhancing the role and responsibilities of the Health Policy Oversight Committee.
* Assigning authority to a Managed Care Ombudsman.
* Expanding the Medical Assistance Advisory Council.

All of this is necessary because the Branstad-Reynolds Administration took a “too much, too fast” approach to Medicaid privatization.
{my emphasis} The federal government imposed two delays, but with implementation coming April 1, Iowans are urgently speaking out. Every Iowa legislator has heard from them.

With so many unanswered questions, oversight is a must. We can’t let privatization hurt the very people Medicaid is supposed to help.

WHO OWNS YOUR DIGITAL DATA & COMMUNICATIONS?
A generation ago, mail was delivered to your house; photos were kept in an album; thoughts were recorded in a diary; documents were filed in a cabinet; and money was deposited at a bank. The Internet has changed all that.

Today, many Iowans keep their photos online, interact with friends and family through Facebook and store data and documents on a server. If you die or become disabled, survivors may not be able to access these digital assets.

No Iowa law provides the administrator of an estate or a person with power of attorney to access your Facebook page, Gmail, Shutterfly account or Dropbox. If an active Internet user dies, survivors may not be able to get important family photos or shut down a Facebook account that serves as a painful reminder of the loss. The companies storing these assets on their servers are “custodians,” who often prohibit access to grieving families.

Senate File 2112 moves Iowa into the 21st century by giving Internet users the power to plan for their digital assets, just like they would for physical property. By providing procedures for allowing access to digital accounts, Iowans can decide how all of their assets will be handled when they can no longer do so themselves.

Branstad’s Medicaid Debacle Moves Forward

Gano holds Branstad accountableIowa Democrats are attempting damage control, but Branstad’s corporatization of Medicaid is yet another sad tale of what happens when Republicans get too much power.

State Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City gave her opening remarks today regarding SF 2213, a piece of legislation that would establish strong oversight provisions to the newly privatized [corporatized] healthcare [denial] system.

 

Advocates For Iowa Medicaid To Hold Rally At State Capitol

iowa capitolDES MOINES – Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver and a diverse group of health care providers, medical professionals, disability advocates, Medicaid beneficiaries and their families will be staging a rally at the Iowa State Capitol on Wednesday, February 24th, to raise awareness of peoples’ concerns regarding the proposed privatization of Medicaid in Iowa.

“Over the last few weeks, hundreds of Iowans have attended town meetings, contacted public officials, and have told their stories in every part of the state,” said Governor Culver. “While we do not know what the federal government will decide, we do know that they are listening to Iowans – which is why it is so important for people affected by this proposal to make their voices heard.”

There are currently more than 560,000 Iowans who currently use Medicaid, and very few have had an opportunity to speak out to our government or to the decision makers. This includes more than 120,000 Iowans with disabilities – people who stand to lose the most with this move.

The rally at the State Capitol is the culmination of a series of town hall meetings and citizen involvement throughout the state in the last four weeks, with one goal in mind – to make sure that policymakers put Iowans first as they determine their next steps.

Details:
What: Advocates for Iowa Medicaid Rally
Where: State Capitol Rotunda
Date: February 24th, 2016
When: 2:00-4:00 PM

This event is open to the public.

Media Contact:
Pete McRoberts
pete@chetculvergroup.com
(319) 429-1785

Updates From Senator Robb Hogg

hogg_banner_web_e

EDUCATION FUNDING
The conference committee on the legislation (SF174) to fund our schools for the 2016-17 school year has met and informal discussions continue among the members of the committee. As you may know, the Senate has passed a 4 percent increase, while the House has passed a 2 percent increase. Governor Branstad proposed a 2.45 percent increase.

If we want schools to innovate and to expand opportunities, like career and technical education, the arts, math and science, and community learning opportunities, we need to provide resources for them. After years of short-changing education, Governor Branstad and House Republicans need to step up to give our schools the resources they need to stop the cuts and provide world-class educational opportunities for all students.

You can help by speaking up in public, by calling Governor Branstad’s office at 515-281-5211 (weekdays), and by emailing legislators of both parties and in both chambers. On Twitter, I am using the hash tag, #FundIowaSchools. Please speak up for our schools and our students.

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT TO STOP MEDICAID PRIVATIZATION

The Iowa Senate passed legislation (SF2125) earlier this month with bipartisan support to stop Governor Branstad’s proposal to use three out-of-state for-profit companies to administer managed care for Medicaid recipients. This proposal is flawed because Iowa’s Medicaid administration is effective and is making ongoing improvements. Shipping millions of dollars out of state to for-profit companies will not help our system. Even if privatization could work, Governor Branstad has badly mismanaged the process, and it needs to be stopped. SF2125 is now pending in the Iowa House.

CLEAN WATER PROPOSALS
There are numerous clean water proposals pending before the Iowa Legislature. It will take a major effort to get the Legislature to pass clean water legislation, but I believe there are real solutions that will work that involve additional public investment (through the Natural Resources Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund or other source), a transparent monitoring system so that we can measure progress, and a cooperative watershed-by-watershed approach. Please join me in speaking up for clean water solutions with legislators, Governor Branstad and the public.

DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION

One bill that has not gotten much attention could make a huge difference for young people in our state. In the Senate Education Committee, Senator Liz Mathis forged unanimous bipartisan support for SF2195, which would add dating violence prevention and affirmative consent to our “human growth and development” (sex education) classes in our schools. Almost one in eight high school students report being abused by a dating partner, and nearly one in five women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. This bill, supported by the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council, is a critical step toward reducing dating violence and promoting sexual health.

The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

The Iowa Legislature is back in session. We are quite happy to once again turn a corner of this blog over to excerpts from the newsletter of State Senator Tom Courtney and occasionally others. The full newsletter can be read here.

CLASS SIZES WILL INCREASE IF SCHOOL FUNDING FALLS SHORT

Another year of inadequate state funding for K-12 schools will result in larger class sizes. That’s what school administrators tell us in a new survey.
Superintendents, principals and other school officials completed the survey in recent weeks to help us better understand the consequences of shortchanging public schools, and to determine the impact of the Governor’s veto last summer of bipartisan school funding.

Underfunding local schools limits educational opportunity for our students. That’s bad for Iowa’s future at a time when business leaders say Iowa needs more skilled workers just to fill current job openings. When we underfund education, we undermine our state’s economy and the ability of Iowa families to get ahead.

In addition to packing more students into classrooms, school leaders say underfunding schools will force them to:

* Delay purchasing books and classroom materials (77 percent of respondents).
* Leave positions unfilled (71 percent).
* Delay new technology purchases (56 percent).
* Cut back on programs that help kids learn to read (43 percent).

An increase of at least 4 percent in basic state aid to schools is what’s needed for the next school year to avoid these types of drastic cuts, according 88 percent of school leaders who responded to the survey.

It’s time to make public schools a bipartisan priority of the Legislature again. We can afford to do it. Our state savings accounts are full at $719 million. That’s a record high level, equal 10 percent of state budget. In addition, we expect to end the year with a surplus of $264 million.

To view complete results from the school administrator survey, go to here.


IOWANS NERVOUS ABOUT MEDICAID PRIVATIZATION

Medicaid is the health care safety net for 560,000 Iowans. One in five Iowans depends on Medicaid for vital health care services, including the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health concerns, children and moms.

Because of an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration, Iowa families may not be able to count on that safety net anymore.

The Governor’s unilateral decision to turn Medicaid and $4.2 billion over to a few private out-of-state companies is fiscally irresponsible and risky to the health of Iowans. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has stepped in to slow down the process until at least March 1, but many are still concerned that the Iowa Department of Human Services and the out-of-state companies will be not be prepared to make the transition by then.

Members, caregivers and families are in turmoil over the major changes to Iowa Medicaid. It could result in increased costs to taxpayers and denial of health care to Iowans. Some providers are unsure they’ll survive the new payment structure.

We will continue to help Iowa patients and local community health care providers as best we can with their individual circumstances.

In addition, Senate Democrats are developing stronger oversight legislation this session. We want safeguards in place to protect Iowans who rely on Medicaid and our local health care providers from potential negative impacts of privatizing Medicaid.

IOWA VETERANS DESERVE OUR SUPPORT
Veterans from across Iowa visited the State Capitol on January 20 for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill. I was pleased to welcome veterans from our district, and to listen to their concerns and ideas.

They had a full schedule of activities, including a special ceremony in the rotunda honoring their service. In addition they had the opportunity to meet Adjutant General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard, Commandant Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Col. Robert King (Ret.), and members of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.

The Legislature’s Veterans Affairs Committee has worked in a bipartisan way to expand benefits for our veterans, service members and their families. For example, last year we:

* Provided a stable source of revenue for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund by transferring $2.5 million in lottery revenues each year to the trust fund (SF 323).
* Offered flexibility in using college aid by providing a total of 120 undergraduate credit hours through the National Guard Educational Assistance Program, instead of administering aid by term (SF 130).
* Expanded college credit for military education, training and experience to include National Guard members and Reservists, saving them time and money in completing their degrees (HF 205).
* Ensured a full property tax exemption through the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit to veterans who have 100 percent service-connected, permanent disability that makes it impossible to work (HF 166).
* Added “service-disabled veteran” to the definition of targeted small businesses, which are eligible for low-interest loans and grants, as well as consideration when that state seeks bids for goods and services (SF 499).

This year, we continue to explore opportunities to support our veterans, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, help returning service members reenter civilian life, and encourage more veterans to make Iowa their home.

Iowa troops who have answered the call to duty deserve this dedicated support.

Feds Wisely Delay Iowa’s Medicaid Privatization‏

Courtney Report

The decision by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week to delay privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid program is a victory for Medicaid recipients and providers.

Thousands of Iowans have been telling us this for months: the Branstad/Reynolds privatization plan attempts to do too much, too fast, and fails to protect vulnerable Iowans.

A letter from CMS Director Vikki Wachino states: “CMS previously outlined the requirements to provide high quality, accessible care to Medicaid beneficiaries, and Iowa has not yet met those requirements, meaning that a transition on January 1 would risk serious disruptions in care for Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries.”

Specific concerns raised by CMS include:

* Arbitrary and unrealistic implementation timeline
* Failure to establish adequate provider networks in advance
* Disruptions of longstanding patient-provider relationships
* Diminished quality and access to health care services
* Compromised patient care
* Inadequate communication with patients and providers

Despite the 60-day delay, the fight is not over. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans and their providers are still struggling to make sense of the changes the Governor is making to their health care. We must find a way to minimize the harm being imposed on Iowa families and health care providers.

Read the complete letter from CMS here.
Comment:

Sadly this is only a delay. The CMS is disposed toward eventually approving this plan. Therefore please contact any Iowa Senate Democrat to let them know you stand behind their opposition.

Branstad’s Record: Broken Promises and Handouts To Buddies

Gano holds Branstad accountable

Gano holds Branstad accountable

A few days back, Terry Branstad became America’s longest serving governor. But that certainly does not imply that he has in any way been the most consequential governor in America nor in Iowa. What it does say is that the vaunted, highly educated Iowa electorate tends to reelect candidates no matter what they do, especially if they are Republican.

Branstad’s recent terms have been exercises in taking our tax money and handing it over to his donors. Nothing could be more illustrative of this than the fiasco his administration has created in his haste to reward corporate donors from the insurance world with lucrative no-bid contracts to run Iowa’s Medicaid system. But here are many other examples from Orascom to his administrations ‘reinterpretation’ of tax laws to greatly benefit businesses.

Progress Iowa has created a website to keep track of Branstad’s broken promises. We can fully expect the millions of dollars in savings that Branstad promised that profitizing Medicaid would create will be on that list next year.

In a press release announcing their new website to track Branstad’s record of broken promises Matt Sinovic stated:

“Unfortunately, simply serving in office longer than any other governor in our country’s history is by far the most notable achievement of this governor’s administration,” said Matt Sinovic, Progress Iowa Executive Director. “They failed to keep a number of promises, from failing to create jobs to letting Iowa fall behind the rest of the country when it comes to supporting our students. They’ve done a good job staying in office, but a poor job serving their constituents.”

We echo Mr. Sinovic’s sentiments.

Great Examples Of Why The Internet Must Remain Free

keep the internet free
Would We Have Heard Of These Without An Open Net?

Boy, for a group of folks who spend most of their life pointing fingers and saying how much government sucks, Republicans sure can milk the the tax dollars for their personal wealth.

Sweetheart deals have been discovered involving former Iowa Republican officials in recent months. Matt Strawn, former Iowa GOP chair, has been awarded over $300,000 in no-bid contracts for his services by the University of Iowa over a period of years. In many of these cases, Strawn’s company did not even perform the work instead simply sub-contracting it to other firms. Mechanisms were employed to ensure the contracts were no-bid.

In a similar vein, former Iowa Speaker of the House, Kraig Paulsen was hired for a newly created and highly paid position at Iowa State University. The position built around what is billed as a “supply chain initiative” was created and then Paulsen picked to fill it without the usual practice of advertising the opening or screening candidates.

Paulsen was selected:

“His skills and experiences are considered a perfect fit for the College of Business initiative,” McCarroll said in an email to The Gazette. “His hire resulted from mutual interest and conversations about what the college wants to accomplish.”

In other words the process that was employed to let contracts to Matt Strawn’s firm at the U of Iowa was nearly exactly the same as the process employed to hire Speaker Paulsen at a substantial cost at Iowa State. An excellent analysis here:

Now let’s add into the mix the process to hire U of Iowa J. Bruce Harreld last summer.The president of Iowa’s Board of Regents, Bruce Rastetter essentially recruited Harreld for the job. Then the Board selected Harreld over other apparently more highly qualified candidates. While herald may not be the republican Party insider type that Strawn or Paulsen are, Regent’s Board Chair Bruce Rastetter surely is. Rastetter’s handling of the search for a new president looks almost like he hiring of Paulsen or the contracting of Strawn. Rastetter recruited and the picked Harreld with only the superficial appearance of a true hiring process.

In another vein, Iowa Governor for life Terry Branstad unilaterally dismantled the current Medicaid system and handed the lucrative contracts to run the system to hand picked companies.The upshot of Branstad’s unilateral move will be more money taken from our tax dollars and handed to wealthy corporations while those who were supposed to be helped by the Medicaid system – some nearly 600,000 Iowans – will receive poorer services.

There are two lessons to be learned through these stories. The very first is the corruption that is rampant in Iowa’s government at the moment. At a time when Terry Branstad is being hailed for his longevity as governor those who take government seriously are gnashing their teeth at how low Iowa government has fallen. Iowa was once the model for the country of how good governments should be run. Now Iowa is fast becoming a symbol of how state governments run by tea party zealots such as Sam Brownback or Scott Walker can fail its citizens.

The other lesson that has been unspoken is the value of the internet in providing a platform for such stories of corruption to be reported and analyzed by both a professional press and citizens alike. Were the internet to be transformed into a gatekeeper system as corporations and Republicans have been fighting for day in and day out, the possibility of stories such as these examples of the corruption of our state government would be hard to find and even harder to put together. Stories such as police brutality that has been buried for decades would remain buried were the internet to be put behind pay curtains.

Americans already pay premium dollars for internet access. Other countries in the free world have learned the value that an open internet has. Putting gatekeepers and pay curtains in charge of America’s internet wouldn’t be much different than the Chinese government’s control over their internet. Once in charge, someone will be selecting what stories citizens should not be allowed to read. happens every time.

Ernst, Grassley Vote To Take Away Health Care

joni ernst the perfect Koch investment

not working for most Iowans

not working for most Iowans

Also vote to gut Planned Parenthood

On a Senate vote using the reconciliation process to push a very bad Republican budget bill with amendments to dismantle the ACA (aka Obamacare) and to defund Planned Parenthood, Iowa’s two current Republican senators stood four square with their party and against the wishes of Iowans as they voted for the bill.

Were the President to sign this bill (very unlikely) some 17 million Americans could lose their health care and some 10 million women would be without affordable health services from Planned Parenthood.

Once again our Republican senators ignore the will of Iowans and vote for the interests of their wealthy donors and the extremist fringe elements of their party.

No Republican has yet to offer any replacement for the ACA nor has any offered any realistic alternatives for the services that Planned Parenthood offers women.

planned parentood attack