AP NEWS

Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

September 30, 2019

Des Moines Register. September 26, 2019

Two years after AmeriHealth collected Medicaid money, it still hasn’t paid health providers

A thistle to AmeriHealth Caritas for failing to reimburse Iowa health care providers as much as $1.4 million.

The insurance company pulled out of the privatized Medicaid program nearly two years ago, yet state documents show it has yet to pay a huge debt to hospitals, nursing homes and mental health providers, according to the Associated Press.

With no help from the state in collecting the money owed, providers must file lawsuits or go through arbitration to try to collect. That means more resources dedicated to paperwork and bureaucracy instead of providing health care to Iowans — a recurring theme in privatized Medicaid.

The CEO of a health care company that is owed nearly $200,000 aptly summed up the situation as “downright thievery.”

It’s actually state-sanctioned thievery, thanks to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is deserving of the biggest thistle jab in all this. She insists on continuing the disastrous Medicaid privatization, which was put in place by her predecessor. Instead of returning the program to state management, she maintains and defends a model that funnels billions of public dollars to for-profit companies. Those companies demand and receive more and more taxpayer dollars. When they don’t get what they want, they can and do abruptly close up shop and leave the rest of us to deal with the aftermath.

Will the governor do anything to ensure AmeriHealth pays Iowa health providers for services provided her constituents?

A rose to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Donor Network for working together to expand organ donation registration under a new law named after Logan Luft.

The Charles City teen had registered to be an organ donor before he died in a 2017 ATV accident. Since then, a young girl in Kentucky received Logan’s heart. A Minnesota teen has his liver. At least 20 people have received tissue and bone from his body.

Though Iowans have long been prompted to sign up to be donors when they get driver’s licenses, Logan’s Law expands registration to hunting and fishing licenses. It also requires state officials to include donor information in hunting safety courses.

There’s no estimate on the impact of how many more donors will sign up in Iowa, but in the year after Minnesota added donor registration to outdoor recreational licenses, more than 32,000 people registered.

A rose to California for banning taxpayer-funded travel to Iowa after our lawmakers and governor exempted transition surgery for transgender people from being covered under taxpayer-funded health insurance, including Medicaid.

In April, the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature voted to allow any state, local government unit or tax-supported district to decline to use public funds for “sex reassignment surgery” and other reconstructive and plastic surgeries.

The result was singling out and denying care to one group of Iowans who already feel marginalized.

“California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

If only Iowa leaders were so enlightened. And if GOP politicians are suddenly interested in micromanaging Medicaid spending, they should refer to the thistle above and take an interest in the money being wasted by privatizing the program.

A rose to the Iowa Department of Transportation for expanding its “Highway Helper” program to the Quad Cities and extending hours in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Council Bluffs.

Workers patrol state highways and use traffic cameras around the state to identify stranded drivers. They provide free help fixing flat tires, jump-starting vehicles and supplying gasoline. If more serious repairs are needed, they transport drivers to a safe location to make arrangements.

“In traffic incident management, every minute counts,” said Iowa DOT Director Mark Lowe. “For every minute a lane is blocked, the risk of a secondary crash increases by 2.8 percent.”

Having a vehicle break down on the highway can be terrifying. Cars and trucks barrel by at high speeds. Distracted drivers may veer into you. While you hope someone stops, you’re afraid of who that person may be. The flashing lights of a Highway Helper vehicle are a welcome sight.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. September 24, 2019

Gov. Reynolds’ voice is being heard nationally

Gov. Kim Reynolds has made economic development a key part of her strategy for making Iowa’s future bright. She understands that having the right workforce to meet tomorrow’s needs is one of the keys to long-term prosperity for the Hawkeye State. The governor has put particular emphasis on Future Ready Iowa, which she says is a “powerful tool to grow family incomes, meet employer needs and strengthen communities.”

Reynolds’ innovative leadership in Iowa has been noticed in Washington. That’s why President Donald Trump selected her as one of only two governors to serve on his administration’s prestigious American Workplace Advisory Board. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Ivanka Trump co-chair the board. It includes leaders of American industry, other private sector entities, scholars and government officials. The goal is to bring together exceptional people with varying perspectives on workforce issues to craft winning strategies for the years ahead.

The board has just concluded a meeting in Washington and approved recommendations designed to help Americans find the right pathways to rewarding careers. As part of the process for generating those proposals, Reynolds was able to share with board members the successes Iowa is achieving. It is her belief that other states can learn from our state’s experiences.

“As the economy continues to grow and wages rise, there’s even more opportunity for individuals to take that next step toward a rewarding career,” Reynolds said in a statement about the board’s work thus far. “In Iowa, we have seen incredible success from private-public partnerships and grassroots action, through the Future Ready Iowa Initiative, the Virtual Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning and Registered Apprenticeships. The American Workforce Advisory Board provides us with a growing national audience to tell our story.”

Among the board’s initial recommendations are the following:

. Development of a marketing campaign led by the private sector,

. Creation of digital resume workshops and

. Better sharing of workforce-related data between the state and federal governments.

As the board’s work moves forward, Reynolds has been asked to take part in two key subcommittees. One is charged with developing a campaign to promote multiple pathways to career success. It is co-chaired by Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO. The other subcommittee will consider ways to modernize candidate recruitment and training practices.

The Messenger congratulates Reynolds and her colleagues on the American Workforce Advisory Board for their initial work. We look forward to hearing further recommendations in the months ahead. We are proud that the expertise of our governor has been recognized and that she in playing a major role in the important undertaking.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. September 25, 2019

Public meetings need public venues — and not out of state

For citizens who are interested in government transparency — and that should be all of us — an article on Page 8C of Saturday’s Telegraph Herald should have been troubling.

Troubling for multiple reasons.

The Associated Press reported that the Iowa Communities Assurance Pool, a governmental body, routinely conducts its public meetings at resorts out of state. As it relates to the Iowa Communities Assurance Pool — how many of us even knew such an entity existed? — when we say “out of state,” we’re not talking about a Council Bluffs-based entity scooting across the Missouri River into Omaha for a meeting, or a public body from Dubuque holding a meeting at The Galena Territory in Illinois. Even that would raise concerns, but nothing like the egregious actions of the Iowa Communities Assurance Pool.

No, ICAP, which runs a group insurance program for hundreds of public bodies, from townships to cities to county fairs, routinely conducts two public meetings a year out of state — usually in Michigan in summer and Florida in the winter. Sure, Iowans are welcome to attend those meetings — they just need to pay their own way to Mackinaw Island or Marco Island or whatever lavish location ICAP board members choose for themselves.

And on the four occasions a year when the Des Moines-based public body meets in Iowa, sessions were usually conducted at members-only clubs, such as the Embassy Club West and Hyperion Field Club. It is reminiscent of the Dubuque Airport Commission, which, in the early 1990s, hunkered down for its official meetings at Dubuque Golf and Country Club. Terry Duggan, mayor at the time, saw to it that the commission stopped that and moved to a neutral site in a public venue. Citizens who want to attend a governmental meeting should not be made to feel like gate-crashers.

The state’s Open Meetings Law, Chapter 21 of the Iowa Code, explains that the intent of the law is to ensure “that the basis and rationale of government decisions, as well as those decisions themselves, are easily accessible to the people.” Should there be any ambiguity, the law continues, resolution should come down in favor of openness. Section 21.4 clearly states “each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public and at a time reasonably convenient to the public, unless for good cause such a place or time is impossible or impracticable.” Easily accessible — if you can afford the time and expense getting to St. Joseph, Mich.

The AP reported that, not only do ICAP board members enjoy taxpayer-funded reimbursement for hotels, meals and travel associated with their junkets — one “public” meeting in Florida lasted 29 minutes — they have tripled their own pay to $300 a day for attending them. Fortunately for taxpayers, spouses or guests of board members who come along have to pay their own way.

In the face of these facts, the board chairman appears to be taking a page from the playbook of a certain national figure: deny, deny, deny.

Jody Smith, who has been board chairman since 1992 — that’s right, 1992 — defends these practices. The board hasn’t met in Michigan, home state of its insurance pool administrator, and Florida, site of a reinsurance conference, every year. He’s right: The board has, on a couple of occasions this decade, met at a Lake Okoboji resort in Iowa. But, at this point, they plan to go back to Michigan next summer.

It’s incredible that Smith — and the rest of his board, apparently — don’t see the problem of spending Iowans’ tax dollars to generously compensate themselves and, especially, bolster the tourism industries of Michigan and Florida.

If the board needs to work “in-person” with its pool administrator, York Risk Services, as Smith argues, York can’t send its people, at its expense, to Iowa? Who’s the customer in that business relationship anyway?

If the site of those meetings, out of state and in private clubs, doesn’t violate the letter of the law — and it’s hard to see how it doesn’t — it definitely violates the spirit. If lawmakers or the attorney general need to clarify the law, they should.

ICAP board members should be embarrassed. According to their website, they include several northeast Iowans, including state Rep. Michael Bergan, of Winneshiek County; David Hageman, Winneshiek County Landfill; Larry Burger, Lake Delhi Combined Rural Water Association; and Tom Roth, City of Bellevue.

Since Smith continues to defend the practice — by the way, what public body allows the same person to be a member for 32 years and its chair for 27 years? — we call on others on the board to do the right thing. They should cancel their out-of-state junkets and find a public venue for their governmental meetings.

Barring some rare and exceptional circumstances, all Iowa governmental bodies should meet in Iowa.

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