December 12, 2019
Greeting to you all,
There are several new troubling signs that Iowa’s health care crisis is getting worse, not better. First, two mental health centers are closing this month in eastern Iowa. Hillcrest Family Services announced the closings after years of low Medicaid reimbursements and delayed payments from one of the out of state, for-profit companies (MCO) managing the state’s Medicaid program.
Second, the US Dept. of Justice launched an investigation into the Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers, which serves Iowans with significant disabilities. The move comes after years of warnings from families and health care experts that budget and staffing cuts pushed by the majority party are impacting care of our most vulnerable citizens. In a separate review, Iowa’s State Auditor found that one-third of staff at Glenwood had not completed the required training.
Citing the high cost of health care, data from Gallup found 25% of Americans have put off treatment for a serious medical condition which is the highest in thirty years. When session begins in January, we’re going to have to work together to make health care affordable and accessible for every Iowan. That means expanding access to mental health care for kids and adults, holding MCO’s accountable to make sure Iowans get the care they need, and finding ways to lower health care and prescription drug costs for everyone.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press, the list of felons used by state auditors to determine who is eligible to vote is riddled with errors and likely disenfranchising many Iowans. Iowa has one of the most punitive laws in the nation that makes restoring voting rights extremely difficult. Prior to session a committee was formed to study how we can make criminal justice reforms that work. Some of the early discussions are focused on restoration of voting rights and creating successful reentry programs. Hopefully we can make some progress this session.
After several deaths and cases of lung damage, lawmakers will likely consider a bill to crack down on vaping. Some health officials believe the highest risk comes from THC in vape cartridges.
The US Census Bureau will begin hiring Iowans in January to conduct the census in 2020. Applications are available at: 2020census.gov/jobs.
Thank you for taking the time to read the Statehouse News. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please keep in touch!
Upcoming Community Events
12 Hoopla Cheer & Ugly Sweater Contest Cedar Falls Downtown District, 6pm, 277-0213
12 10-Minute Plays Strayer-Wood Theatre, UNI Campus, 7:30pm, 273-6381
13 Lunchtime Concert – UNI Bass Studio Hearst Center, noon, 273-8641
13 Ladies Night Out Cedar Falls Community Center, 6pm, 277-1868
13-15 Christmas Double Feature Hope Martin Theatre, Waterloo, Fri 7pm; Sat & Sun 2pm, 291-4494
13-15 Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn Oster Regent Theatre, Fri & Sat 7:30pm; Sun 2pm, 277-5283
14 Frosty 5K Fun Run Walk First United Methodist Church, 8am, 290-5279
14 UNI Wrestling Open Meet UNI West Gym, 9am, 273-4849
14 Jim McDonough’s Holiday Grande *GBPAC, 2:30pm, 273-7469
15 Holiday Concert with Bel Cantro of the Cedar Valley Hearst Center, noon, 273-8641
15 UNI Women’s Basketball vs. IUPUI McLeod Center, 2pm, 273- 4849
15 Bandstand *GBPAC, 7pm, 273-7469 16 UNI New Horizons Band Concert *GBPAC, 7:30pm, 273-2024
19 Baby It’s Cold Outside Cedar Falls Downtown District, 6pm, 277-0213
Iowa Seniors Impacted by Controversial Privatization Plan
After months of controversy, a plan to privatize the state office that protects seniors from abuse has been put on hold.
Last month, the Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman (SLTCO) put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to privatize some of their work. However, no RFP’s were received by the deadline because many companies saw the devastating results when the state’s Medicaid program was privatized. The SLTCO investigates complaints at nursing facilities, residential facilities, assisted living programs, and group homes for seniors across the state. This move would impact six state employees, who are the local long-term care ombudsman.
One potential reason for this change is that Majority Party lawmakers cut appropriations to the SLTCO over the last few years. In 2016, the Office was appropriated $1.6 million, and this fell to $1.26 million in FY 19. During that same time, the number of employees went from 14.4 full-time positions to 9.6.
Due to these budget cuts, the SLTCO had to cut out travel to facilities and instead told the ombudsman to investigate complaints over the phone or through Skype, rather than investigating the facility in-person. According to the Institute of Medicine, the national recommendation on the number of ombudsman positions a state should have is one per 2,000 beds. For Iowa, that would mean about 26. Currently, there are only six regional LTCOs throughout that state.
With the disastrous results that privatization had on our Medicaid program, the move to privatize this office is very concerning. It is essential that an independent agency with proper resources and staffing are able to do their job to keep Iowans safe in long-term care facilities.
Iowa Chief Justice Cady Passes; Court Begins Selection Process
Last month, Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court unexpectedly passed away. Chief Justice Cady was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1998 and was selected as the Chief Justice in 2011.
Following this unfortunate news, the State Judicial Nominating Commission, which is responsible for helping to select Iowa Supreme Court Justices, announced it was starting the process of selecting a new justice for the court. Applications for the vacancy on the court were opened last month. The commission received notice of the vacancy from the Governor on November 20th and has 60 days from that date to send a slate of nominees to the Governor. The Governor then makes an appointment to the Supreme Court from that slate of nominees.
The Supreme Court announced that it was taking the initial steps to create the Chief Justice Mark Cady Learning Center at the Judicial Branch Building. According to the Judicial Branch, one of the goals of Chief Justice Cady was to create an interactive learning center for all Iowans to experience. The announced learning center will have interactive exhibits on the process of Iowa’s court system, highlight important civil rights moments involving the court, and discuss the importance of fair and impartial courts.
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