The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Iowa

December 16, 2013

Iowa readies for Medicaid expansion

DES MOINES (AP) — Between the troubled federal insurance enrollment website and uncertainty over Medicaid expansion, the months leading up to the kick-off of President Barack Obama’s new health care law have been bumpy in Iowa. Now, with weeks to go before the program starts, those issues have largely been resolved, though questions remain about if the state is ready.

Starting Jan. 1, many of the provisions of the health law go into effect, including insurance coverage for those who signed up for private plans on the federal enrollment website. The state’s modified Medicaid expansion — which uses federal dollars to offer coverage to some low-income Iowans — has been granted federal approval and will also begin that day.

But a key question in Iowa is whether all the people seeking coverage can get enrolled in plans, or on Medicaid, by the beginning of January. The enrollment process has been beset by glitches with the federal exchange website, which is being used by 36 states, including Iowa. Obama officials promised to improve the site by the end of November and it appears to be working better.

“It’s going better. I don’t know if I can say it’s going well,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart.

According to data released by the federal government last week, about 25,000 state residents applied for coverage on the federal website in October and November. Of them, just 757 have enrolled in private health insurance plans and another 7,832 have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or another state program.

Gerhart stressed that uninsured people who want coverage to start at the beginning of January must remember that the deadline to sign up for private plans is Dec. 23. He recommended getting advice to help with the process.

“Talk to somebody who can help you. Talk to a navigator, talk to your agent,” Gerhart said, adding that people need to think about what kind of coverage they require. “Is your doctor in the network, are the drugs you need?”

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Iowa
  • Branstad signs school radon bill into law

    The Iowa Department of Education must gather information from schools about whether they are testing for radon gas under a bill Gov. Terry Branstad has signed into law.

    Branstad signed the bill Thursday to require school districts to tell the department about radon testing by the end of this year. The department must then report to the Legislature by January.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gaming commission rejects Cedar Rapids casino

    The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a proposed $164 million Cedar Rapids casino Thursday, saying it would hurt existing casinos.

    Supporters of the Cedar Crossing Casino development have said it would give an economic boost to Cedar Rapids and the region. They also argued it would be a catalyst for development in an area ravaged by a 2008 flood, create jobs and generate millions for tax revenue and charities.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa Senate race suddenly more competitive

    A catchy political ad and a gotcha video have raised Republican hopes of capturing the Senate seat in Iowa, a prospect that would greatly enhance the party's chances of regaining control of the Senate.

    Republicans are adding the seat, held for three decades by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, to their list of winnable races in the November midterm elections.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa board boss cites pressure from administration

    The chairman of the state's Public Employment Relations Board says aides to Gov. Terry Branstad pressured the board to hire a friend of the administration.

    The Des Moines Register reports that the pressure was part of the administration's effort to stack the deck against public employee complaints.

    April 17, 2014

  • Davenport officials arrest 4 in child abuse case

    Authorities say they have arrested four women in connection to possible child sex abuse and pornography at a Davenport trailer park.

    The Scott County Sheriff's Office says the women were taken into custody Wednesday. They are all charged with felony counts of child endangerment.

    April 16, 2014

  • Authorities: Iowa suspect is longtime fugitive

    Authorities say a man being held in Waterloo is a fugitive of more than 40 years from North Carolina.

    The Charlotte Observer reports the man was arrested after the Iowa Transportation Department's facial recognition system flagged his driver's license photo. Authorities say they found information in his residence that identified him as 68-year-old Ronald Dwaine Carnes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Despite ruling, Iowa to bar all felons from voting

    Elections officials will continue to bar felons from voting despite an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that suggests not all of them have lost their voting rights.

    Three justices ruled Tuesday that only some felonies are considered "infamous crimes" under the Iowa Constitution that bar individuals from voting or holding office.

    April 16, 2014

  • Branstad's tax return shows income of $234,907

    Gov. Terry Branstad released his tax returns Wednesday, showing he earned $234,907 and paid $28,298 in federal taxes in 2013.

    The governor and his wife paid $32,085 in federal taxes but are getting a refund of $3,787. Their state tax return shows they paid in $10,285 in taxes but will get a refund of $4,158. In addition the governor and first lady each received $54 back from the Legislature as all Iowa taxpayers did making their total Iowa tax bill $6,235.

    April 16, 2014

  • Iowa workforce chief gave judge positive reviews

    Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert approved positive performance evaluations for the agency's former chief unemployment appeals judge, records show, undermining her public claims that he was a poor manager who decided cases slowly.

    Wahlert sharply criticized the agency's former chief administrative law judge Joe Walsh on April 3, hours after he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. He contends that Wahlert laid off both him and his wife, who worked in another agency division, after he opposed Wahlert's efforts to change his job into a political appointment and to favor employers over workers in decisions.

    April 16, 2014

  • Cool, wet spring may ease western Plains drought

    A spring forecast of above-average rainfall in parts of the Plains region is raising hopes for a break in drought conditions plaguing much of the area.

    "It looks pretty good for conditions to improve into the early summer," said Sioux Falls-based National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Gillispie about predictions for precipitation in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.

    April 16, 2014

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