The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 6, 2013

MOORE: Medicaid is hot topic at Statehouse

By Brian Moore
The Clinton Herald

---- — Expanding Medicaid has generated a lot of discussion. 

Under the new Affordable Health Care Act, frequently called “Obamacare,” the federal government has dictated that states must implement two programs. 

The first program requires states to provide a Health Care Exchange where people can purchase health care insurance and the second program encourages states to expand Medicaid.

Proposed expansion of Medicaid adds new recipients by raising minimum income levels from 100 percent to 133 perccent of the federal poverty level. Examples of 133 percent of poverty level would currently be $15,282 per year per individual or $31,322 per year for a family of four.

This would result in adding approximately 150,000 people to Iowa’s Medicaid program at a cost of roughly $400 million a year.  

To help cover Iowa’s cost, the federal government said it would pay 100 percent of the cost for new enrollees from 2014 through 2016. After that, it would cover costs up to 90 percent with Iowa picking up the rest.  Many studies have been done but results vary according to the results their authors want to show.

Many questions exist:

• Federal assistance on current Medicaid continues to drop — can Iowa expect the same?

• How much will it increase our federal taxes and can we afford those increases?

• How will it affect our doctors, hospitals and workforce?

• Are there enough doctors willing to accept these new patients?

• Should Iowa decline the federal plan and implement our own plan?

• How long should we wait to make a decision?

Many people question expanding our entitlement programs and don’t think the federal government should continue increasing our nation’s debt. Seeing the financial problems in Europe, can the U.S. expect the same? Hospitals want expansion of Medicaid because the federal government will be making cutbacks in Medicare to fund this expansion.

Currently there is no deadline on when states have to decide; however, once implemented, it would be extremely difficult to cut back. The Senate wants to expand by taking the federal funds. The governor wants a more gradual expansion of Iowa’s existing plan. This is a very difficult issue to resolve.

• Mental Health — The governor has signed off on $11.6 million for continued treatment of mental health patients during the transition to a regional system. Of that, Jackson County has been allocated $508,580. Another piece of legislation, still waiting action, would establish an “equalization” rate that would let all Iowa counties raise revenue for mental health and developmental disability services via property taxes to the rate of $47.28 per capita.

• Close barns Instead of destroying them — This legislation, (HF-512), pertains to mothballing hog facilities. Current law states the only way to terminate a manure management facility is to destroy the confinement building. This bill would allow an operator to notify the DNR and keep the building standing. It will also allow older farmers to exit the livestock industry while leaving the building intact for the next generation. This legislation was passed in the House and now will be considered in the Senate.

Nominations are being sought for the 2014 Iowa Teacher of the Year by the Iowa Department of Education. The award will recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Nominations will be accepted from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations. Tania Johnson of Cedar Rapids was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year.

The 2014 Teacher of the Year nomination deadline is April 26 with the winner being announced this fall. Nomination forms can be found on the following webpage: http://educateiowa.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=686&Itemid=2683

Congratulations to Max Reed of Bellevue for being honored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Tom Latham for being selected as a ‘Star of Life’ by the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association. A founder of the Bellevue Ambulance Service in 1972, he is the only volunteer still active.

Brian Moore, a Republican from Zwingle, represents Iowa House District 58 in the Iowa Legislature, which covers Jackson County.