Des Moines, Iowa — All 50 state senators are pushing for more legislative oversight of a shift that will turn over management of nearly all of the state’s more than four-billion dollar Medicaid program to private “managed care” companies. Senator Amanda Ragan, a Democrat from Mason City, says there’s “great uncertainty” about how this transition will impact the 560-thousand low income, elderly and disabled Iowans who get health care coverage through Medicaid.
(as said) “It’s critical that we will have a voice in this because many of the people that we are representing don’t have a voice,” Ragan says.
A bill on the subject has passed the senate on unanimous vote. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says private companies stand to gain big if they get the contract.
(as said) “If you look at the fine print…those managed care companies will extract about $800 million a year that’s currently being spent on services to our constituents for the pleasure of operating the program,” Bolkcom says.
And Bolkcom argues it’s likely health care services to poor and disabled Iowans will be cut by 800-million to cover the cost of the contracts. Republican Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan told Democrats their tone was not helpful.
(as said) “Let’s just settle down here a little bit,” Johnson said. “I’m going to support this bill, but I’m not here to knock the administration about this.”
Johnson says while he supports the idea of having the legislature more involved in the decision making, nearly 40 other states are moving to sign managed care contracts for Medicaid programs. Governor Branstad’s administration expects to hire up to four managed care companies to run most of Iowa’s Medicaid program. When announcing the initiative last month, officials said their aim was to implement the change starting July 1st. Iowans on Medicaid who’re being treated for mental illnesses are already part of a managed care plan, but the plan is to have most Medicaid-financed services in Iowa under a managed care contract. That includes nursing home care for elderly Iowans who are on Medicaid.
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Washington, D.C. — Congressman Steve King has reintroduced the “No Hungry Kids Act”. It would repeal the USDA rule that created the new standards that some say leave kids hungry.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released standards that some say have left children across the nation hungry during the school day because of calorie rationing. The “No Hungry Kids Act” would repeal this USDA rule that created the new standards, would prohibit the USDA’s upper caloric limits, and would protect the rights of parents to send their children to school with the foods of their choice.
King says the act would help students be the best they can be. He says that the goal of the school lunch program was – and is – to ensure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn. King goes on to say QUOTE, “The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama’s ‘Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,’ was interpreted by Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want.”
King says his ‘No Hungry Kids Act’ prohibits the USDA from rationing calories to children, so schools can serve our students as much nutritious food as they want, so that students can grow and learn and excel, “in school and out of school – in the classroom and on the playing field.”
Sheldon, Iowa — The Sheldon Prairie Arts Council continues to plan to bring the Baker Township Schoolhouse to their complex.
The moving date had been set for April 1, 2015, but that had to be pushed back because the council found out that an “Open Public Hearing” had to be held before they could proceed with moving the building. The Open Meeting will be held Saturday, March 28, at 10:00 AM.
Hal Tuttle from the Prairie Arts Council says they have reached $25,000 in their fundraising efforts. He says they sincerely thank the several businesses and area residents for their contributions.
Tuttle says the group still needs financial help in reaching their goal of $40,000. Fifteen thousand dollars is still needed to refurbish the building with basement windows, painting, roof repairs and so forth.
He says he wants to remind potential donors that their financial contribution is fully tax deductible. He says that contributions of any amount can be sent to “Prairie arts Council, P.O. Box 61, Sheldon, IA 51201.
For further information you can contact a Member of the Board of Directors:
Rock Rapids, Iowa — Two western Lyon County teens face felony drug charges after their arrests this week.
The Lyon County Sheriff’s office reports their deputies arrested 18-year-old Anthony P. Viereck of Larchwood on two counts of Conspiracy to Deliver Marijuana under 50 kilograms. Both charges are Class D Felonies.
Also arrested was 19-year-old Mason A. Vanden Brink of Inwood. He was also charged with two counts of Conspiracy to Deliver Marijuana under 50 kilograms. In addition, Vanden Brink was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance – Marijuana, a Serious Misdemeanor; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Simple Misdemeanor; and Maintaining a Drug House, an Aggravated Misdemeanor. The charges were filed after deputies executed a search warrant at Vanden Brink’s home.
Des Moines, Iowa — The Des Moines Water Works filed suit in U-S District Court this week against the supervisors of Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties claiming their drainage districts have cost the utility thousands of dollars to remove nitrates from the water that it draws from the Raccoon River. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says he understands the challenges before the Des Moines Water Works, but says the lawsuit is the wrong way to bring about change. Northey has been working to get farmers and others involved in voluntary programs to improve water quality.
(as he says)”At the end of the day if they are successful it would be that there should be regulation — it still doesn’t clean up the water,” Northey says. “It just impacts folks in the pocketbook, and a lot of legal fees, a lot of uncertainty. I think it even causes folks to wonder if they aught to participate in the voluntary programs or not.”
Northey says the work should be in the watershed, not the courtroom.
(as he says)”And all the money that’s spent on that legal process, I think it would be a lot better spent putting practices on the ground, working with our landowners, improving our technologies to be able to keep those nutrients on the land,” Northey says.
He says the lawsuit could set a bad precedent that would allow more suits against other counties and many others.
(as he says)”Every other drainage district and any user along the way, obviously it would be such that they could sue somebody up river. Obviously, Ottumwa could sue Des Moines for any type of water qualities that they have,” according to Northey.
Northey says the issue may come down to who owns the water, and should entities be able to dictate to upstream districts specific terms for water quality.
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Des Moines, Iowa — Time is running out for lower-income northwest Iowans to apply for the heating assistance program. Iowa Utilities Board spokesman, Rob Hillesland, says the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available to those who may struggle to pay that heating bill.
Another benefit of being eligible for LIHEAP, is you are then protected on the utility shut off moratorium.
If you don’t have some sort of payment agreement with your provider and have outstanding bills, you should find out about LIHEAP, say state officials — because as of April 1st, the moratorium is over, and that means they could turn off your utilities for non-payment.
In our area, the local community action agency serving Osceola and O’Brien Counties (and several others) is Upper Des Moines Opportunity. You can reach them toll-free at (800) 245-6151 or at udmo.com. Mid-Sioux is the community action agency serving Lyon and Sioux County (and several others). They can be reached toll-free at (800) 859-2025 or at midsioux.org.
The deadline to get heating assistance from LIHEAP for the 2014-15 winter season is April 30th.