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    April 5, 2019

    Medicaid Mess Leaves 425,000 Iowans with Health Care Disruption
    Restoration of Felon Voting Rights Passes House on Bipartisan Vote
    Iowa Care Act Passes Both House and Senate
    Strengthening Animal Cruelty Laws Advances in House
    Sports Wagering Bills Continue to Change
    Paddling Safety Reminder


    Medicaid Mess Leaves 425,000 Iowans with Healthcare Disruption

    On Friday, Governor Reynolds announced UnitedHealthcare was leaving Iowa's managed care program. Not only were all 425,000 of UnitedHealthcare’s members caught off-guard by this announcement, but the Governor did not offer a plan for transition, and left mass confusion and frustration for these Iowans.

    Since another managed care organization (MCO) just left Iowa last year, UnitedHealthcare now manages care for 70% of Iowans on Medicaid. The departure leaves 425,000 Iowans facing another disruption in health care because many had just switched to UnitedHealthcare and have already had multiple case workers.

    In response, Democratic lawmakers offered a plan this week to finally end Medicaid privatization and put Iowans back in charge of health care instead of out-of-state companies. However, GOP lawmakers refused to take action to end the uncertainty for Iowans.

    Though no details have been released, members with questions regarding this transition can contact the MCOs at:

    Iowa Total Care: 1-833-404-1061
    Amerigroup Iowa: 1-800-600-4441
    UnitedHealthcare: 1-800-464-9484

    Members can reach Medicaid Member Services at: 1-800-338-8366.

    For more information about the withdrawal of UnitedHealthcare, please visit www.IAHealthLink.gov.


    Restoration of Felon Voting Rights Passes House on Bipartisan Vote

    An amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would restore the voting rights of certain people that have committed crimes passed the Iowa House recently.

    House Joint Resolution 14 would allow anyone convicted of a felony that has discharged his or her sentence to have the right to vote restored. Under current law, anyone convicted of an “infamous crime,” or essentially a felony, can never vote again in the state without a restoration person’s rights.

    HJR 14 passed the Iowa House on a bipartisan vote of 95-2. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it’s unclear if the committee will take up the bill this session. It will have to be voted out of that Committee by April 5th to remain eligible to be debated this legislative session.

    The amendment will also have to pass during the current consecutive two-year General Assembly. If the amendment then passed the next General Assembly, starting in January 2021, the amendment would be put before the voters on general election ballot in November 2022. If a majority of the voters approved the change the Iowa Constitution would be amended. The Constitutional amendment was proposed by Governor Reynolds.

    Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states in the country that permanently prohibit felons from voting. There are currently about 50,000 people in the state of Iowa that have lost the right to vote because of a criminal record. The only way to restore the person’s rights under current Iowa law is for the Governor to do the restoration.


    Iowa Care Act Passes Both House and Senate

    A bill that will help address caregiver’s needs passed both the House and Senate last month. A top priority of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the initiative is designed to provide support to those who are caring for their loved ones after they are discharged from the hospital and are headed back home.

    The bill, Senate File 210, has three components to help caregivers:

      1. Allows the patient to designate a caregiver, and have that caregiver’s name be recorded when the patient is admitted to a hospital.

      2. The caregiver is to be informed when their loved one is admitted to the hospital or to be moved or discharged.

      3. The caregiver is provided instruction of the medical tasks they will need to perform at home for their loved one, and gives them the opportunity to ask specific questions regarding these tasks.

    Communication is very important in these critical situations, and the Iowa Care Act will help to lessen the confusion that many caregivers face when caring for their loved one.

    For more information regarding the Care Act, please visit AARP’s website at: https://states.aarp.org/passing-iowa-care-act-top-priority-during-2019-legislative-session/.


    Strengthening Animal Cruelty Laws Advances

    A bill to provide additional penalties for the mistreatment of companion animals has passed the Iowa House.

    House File 737 clarifies the requirements to find that someone committed animal abuse, animal torture, or animal neglect. It also increases the penalties for some of these crimes against animals, mostly punishing anyone that commits these crimes more severely if the animal is injured or dies.

    According to the Correctional Impact Statement for the bill, the expanded definitions will lead to approximately 17 additional convictions for these crimes. Last year, approximately 105 people were convicted of animal mistreatment crimes under the current law. The bill also better defines exemptions from these crimes, for example for veterinarians that have to treat animals or for situations where an animal may need to be euthanatized.

    If a person is convicted of committing an animal mistreatment crime, the new law allows a court to require a person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The court must order evaluation and treatment if the person that committed the crimes is a juvenile. The court also must order treatment and evaluation if the crimes against animals are severe. The costs of the evaluation and treatment are paid by the convicted person, unless the person is a juvenile.

    HF 737 passed the Iowa House on a unanimous, bipartisan vote. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was voted out of the full Senate Judiciary Committee and now waits to be debated before the full Senate.


    Sports Wagering Bills Continue to Change

    Many Iowans are watching to see if legislation to legalize sports betting and fantasy sports in the state will pass before the legislature adjourns for the year. In order for that to happen, the Iowa House and Senate will have to work out their differences.

    While the current legislation in the House and Senate have many similarities, like a casino based sports betting system and mobile betting, many differences still remain.

    Both the Senate and the House give the responsibility of regulation to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission and don’t allow in-play bets on collegiate athletic events when an in state university is participating. Some of the differences include how much money will go to those with gambling addiction problems, the tax structure, and how many charities will receive money from the new revenue.

    Like many other states, Iowa is in a position to legalize sports betting after a United States Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal ban and left the decision up to the states. There are currently seven states that offer state regulated sports betting.


    Paddling Safety Reminder

    Iowa’s waterways are thawing and will soon be ready for canoeing, kayaking, and other water sports. While some paddlers are eager to get back on the water, it is important to remember the temperature of Iowa waterways are still cold. Most Iowa waterways have higher water levels than normal which creates hazards with debris and swifter currents. Air temperatures are warming up but it will be several weeks before rivers and lakes in Iowa are ideal temperature for water sports.

    The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has several safety tips for paddling in cold water:

    • Check canoes, kayaks, paddles, and life jackets for any holes, tears, or splits
    • Wear a life jacket
    • Dress for the water temperature which is often colder than the air temperature
    • Attend a class to improve your boat control skills
    • Watch out for piles of debris that can pull paddlers under
    • Use the buddy system and don’t paddle alone
    • Bring a change of clothes in case you get wet, decreasing the chances of getting hypothermia
    • Let others know where you will be paddling and how long you plan to be gone

    For more information on paddling visit, http://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking.