October 31, 2018

    What You Need to Know for Election Day
    Healthcare Issues Continue in Iowa
    Iowa Falls Below South Dakota in ACT Scores
    Student Health Group Addressing Lead Testing
    Fall and Winter Camping in State Parks
    Thinking About a Health Sciences Job?

    What You Need to Know for Election Day

    Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th and Iowans can expect a few changes at the polls this year. Below is everything you need to know in order to make sure you ballot is counted and your voice is heard.

    What You Need to Bring

    If you are currently registered to vote in Iowa, you will be asked on Election Day to show a valid form of identification (ID) before casting a ballot. If you do not have one of the five accepted forms of ID’s listed below, you will be allowed to sign an oath of identity and then cast your ballot.

    The following types of ID are accepted:

    - Driver’s License or Non-operator ID
    - US Passport
    - Military or Veterans ID
    - State Issued voter ID card
    - Tribal Identification card

    Polling Locations and Times

    Precinct voting locations are open from 7a.m. to 9p.m. and, as long as voters are in line by 9p.m., they will be allowed to vote. Voters can find their polling locations by checking here: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx

    It Isn’t Too Late to Register to Vote

    Iowans who are not yet registered to vote can still register and vote on Election Day by taking advantage of Iowa’s Same Day Voter Registration process. A voter who wants to register on Election Day will need to show a proof of ID that is valid, current, and contains an expiration date. These include a driver’s license, out of state driver’s license or non-driver ID card, U.S. passport, U.S. military ID, Tribal ID, ID card issued by an employer, or student ID by an Iowa High School or college.

    Along with proof of ID those wanting to register and vote on Election Day also have to show a proof of residence which include: a residential lease, utility or cell phone bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or government document.

    If a voter does not have either of these, they can have a registered voter in their precinct attest for them by both signing an oath.

    Voting Early

    For Iowans who may be out of town on Election Day or simply want to cast their vote early, they can vote on the Saturday and Monday before the election at their local county auditor’s office. There may also be a satellite voting location set up in their area. To find satellite voting locations as well as the address of their county auditor voters can look it up here: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/AuditorsList.html.

    Tracking Absentee

    If you have an absentee ballot that still needs to be mailed in, it must be postmarked by the Monday, November 5. It is a good idea to turn it as soon as possible. You may also hand deliver it to your county auditor. If you have requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received it or want to confirm it was received by the county auditor, you can track your absentee ballot by checking the following link: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/absenteeballotstatus/search.aspx.

    Healthcare Issues Continue in Iowa

    Every Iowan deserves access to affordable health care. Unfortunately, over the last few years Iowa’s health care system has gotten worse, not better.

    Since the GOP privatized Medicaid for 600,000 Iowans, too many Iowans have been denied care and Iowans with disabilities are struggling to get the care they need. Several Iowa health care providers are closing or reducing services due to low rates and denied payments from the for-profit private companies.

    Uncertainty and inaction from federal and state leaders on health care the last two years has also left more Iowans without healthcare. From 2016 to 2017, the number of uninsured Iowans nearly doubled from 3.9% to 7.2%, one of highest jumps in the country. Enrollment in Iowa’s health care marketplace dropped 38% from 75,000 in 2016 to just 46,000 this year.

    Health care costs continue to rise for Iowans with private health insurance, typically through their employer. Private insurance costs went up annually 5% from 2001 to 2014 and the average annual family premium for employer-based health insurance rose 6% from 2013 to 2016.

    Access to health care has also been reduced as GOP lawmakers closed down multiple family planning and health care clinics. The closures left over 14,600 Iowans without health care in their own community for services like, birth control, cancer screenings, and other women’s health services. In fact, a report released by the Department of Human Services (DHS) this month showed that there was a 73% decline of family planning usage due to the closing of these clinics.

    Last session, the Governor and Legislature passed Senate File 2349, which allows Iowans to purchase health benefits through Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) plans or health benefit plans. However, many Iowans are concerned that the new benefit plans are allowed to deny coverage to Iowans with pre-existing conditions and charge higher premiums to Iowans who get sick.

    Local insurance agents, assisters, and certified application counselors are available to assist Iowans review insurance plans and determine which plan may best fit their needs. Iowans can find local help by visiting http://localhelp.HealthCare.gov or contacting the Iowa Insurance Division at (515) 281-5705.

    This healthcare crisis can only be solved by working together to develop bi-partisan solutions that makes Medicaid and health insurance accessible and reliable for all Iowans. This means continuing to expand services in rural Iowa, reinstating the Medicaid Family Planning program, and ending Medicaid privatization.

    Iowa Falls Below South Dakota in ACT Scores

    ACT test scores of last year have been released and it shows that Iowa has fallen behind number one South Dakota in average composite score with at least 55% of the students taking the test. A contributing factor to this may be school funding. In 2017, Iowa ranked 34th nationally in the percent of expenditures dedicated to K-12 education and is $840 million below the national average.

    This is the third year in a row that Iowa high school students’ scores on the ACT have dropped according to data released by ACT based out of Iowa City. Students who took the ACT averaged a comprehensive score of 21.8 out of 36 on the ACT last year. About 68% of Iowa high school students took the ACT. The national average score was 20.8. Iowa’s score was below number one, South Dakota at 21.9.

    In key areas of Math and English benchmarks, Iowa has dropped from 48% in 2014 to 44% in 2017 in Math, and 75% to 70% in English. A benchmark is the percentage of students who are college ready. There are 17 states that have 100% of all students take the ACT. Iowa is not one of them, and those states scores have risen. For example in Nebraska, where 100% of high school students take the ACT before they graduate, their average 2017 comprehensive score was 20.1.

    Student Health Group Addressing Lead Testing

    The Iowa Department of Public Health recommended in 1992 that all children be tested for lead poisoning. It took until 2007 before the Iowa Legislature acted to pass a law for all children entering Kindergarten to have at least one lead test. Yet last school year, 23% of Iowa school children were not matched to a blood test and 96% of Iowa school districts reported data (up 20% from two years prior).

    The law has proven effective in increasing the number of students tested and decreasing the number of children with elevated lead in their blood. Homes built before 1978 continue to be the most common source of lead exposure, and Iowa is among the top states for pre-1950 housing where many contain lead paint. Lead can harm a child’s nervous system, be associated with lower IQ, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

    Now a student health work group is trying to address ways to make the reporting of health data easier on school districts and increase the percent of reported data. This would include immunization requirements, vision, and dental as well as lead screenings. The group will also be looking at reducing the time to report the data and what resources are needed to upgrade or make the reporting process more automated.

    The department also has just completed “Lead Poisoning Prevention Week” to decrease childhood exposure. They claim that 60,000 to 70,000 Iowa kids are tested for lead every year and as many as 10% are found to have high lead levels in their bodies.

    Fall and Winter Camping in State Parks

    Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff has begun to winterize state parks. Water to campgrounds will be turned off and shower houses are closed over winter.

    State parks and campgrounds remain open through winter and visitors are encouraged to use the parks. Campers should contact parks directly with questions on water and other closures. Several state parks have cabins open year-round. To reserve a campsite or cabin visit: https://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com/welcome.do.

    Thinking About a Health Sciences Job?

    New Report Shows Opportunities in Health Care Jobs

    Iowa's health sciences industry is growing and facing a significant shortage of workers. To build awareness of the wide range high-paying careers in this critical industry, a career pathway resource has been developed to show how students and job seekers can enter and advance in the industry.

    Through a series of online surveys and in-person employer focus groups conducted around the state (Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Des Moines, and Sioux City), over 350 health care providers and employers provided direct feedback in the development of the Opportunities in Health Sciences: Iowa career pathways resource. This will help people in developing the personal, technical, and employability skills required for advancement within an industry.

    In addition to health sciences, career pathways resources have also been produced for the information in Iowa’s technology, energy, and advanced manufacturing sectors. More information can be found, including links to resources for each sector, on the Department of Education’s website under Sector Partnerships.