July 18, 2019

    Republican Leaders Block Action on Medical Cannabis
    Reynolds Gives Large Raise to Medicaid Privatization Fiasco
    REAL ID Deadline Approaching
    Conference Sheds Light on Concussions with Student Athletes
    Stop the Spread of Zebra Mussels
    Governor Appoints Empower Rural Iowa Program Manager
    Work-Based Learning Projects Now Available to Schools

    Republican Leaders Block Action on Medical Cannabis

    After Governor Reynolds vetoed a bi-partisan bill to fix Iowa’s medical cannabis law to help more Iowans, Republican leaders in the House and Senate rejected a proposal from Democratic lawmakers last week to find a solution before the Legislature convenes again in January.

    In June, Democrat lawmakers called to convene a special session to override the Governor’s veto, but it was rejected by Republican leaders. In another attempt, a proposal was brought forward to form a special committee during the legislative interim to study potential expansion of Iowa’s medical cannabis program, hear directly from Iowa constituents, and find consensus on a bill that wouldn’t be vetoed. The goal was to find a solution that would be ready the first week of session to help Iowans who are suffering from debilitating conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. However, the proposal was rejected by Republican leadership.

    Last session, the Iowa Legislature passed a bipartisan medical cannabis expansion bill that would have eliminated the current potency cap and instead limit the amount prescribed to Iowa patients. The Governor unexpectedly vetoed the bill at the last minute, claiming the cap removal was “too much.”

    According to a recent Des Moines register poll, 78-percent of Iowans support medical marijuana expansion.

    Reynolds Gives Large Raise to Medicaid Privatization Fiasco

    Despite recent turmoil, the Reynolds Administration agreed to give two for-profit companies managing the state’s Medicaid program an 8.6% raise next year. The latest raise, which totals $386 million, was approved without any guarantee the additional money will go to providers or patients.

    Since Medicaid privatization began in 2016, Iowans have been systematically denied critical care and have had their services severely reduced or cut altogether. Providers have had to close their doors, or have stopped taking Medicaid patients altogether because the for-profit companies, called Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), are not paying them.

    The 8.6% raise comes on top of a huge $344 million raise (8.4%) the MCO’s received last year. Many Iowans have expressed concerns about Medicaid privatization since many members are still receiving worse care while the for-profit companies have received more money. The huge raises are also significantly higher than increases given before privatization began and more than double the increases for Medicaid nationally.

    Earlier this year, one of the MCO’s, UnitedHealthcare, announced they were leaving Iowa and left 425,000 Iowans scrambling to pick another MCO for their health care. Just a few weeks ago, Governor Reynolds forced the Director of Human Services to resign without explanation.

    Medicaid provides health care to 600,000 Iowans, including those in nursing homes. According to recent estimates, about 70% of Medicaid dollars are used for the elderly, severely disabled, and poor. Because this affects our most vulnerable population, it is imperative we understand the true impact privatization is having on our state.

    REAL ID Deadline Approaching

    Iowa residents who plan to renew or update their driver’s licenses need to bring extra forms of identification to receive a REAL ID ahead of next year’s deadline.

    Beginning October 1, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security requires your driver license or identification card to be REAL ID compliant if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities.

    Getting a REAL ID license or ID is just like getting your license or ID for the first time. To meet the requirements, you will have to bring documents that prove your identity, date of birth, social security number, and Iowa residence.

    REAL ID was passed in 2005 in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The Act was passed in order to set minimum security standards for the issuance of sources of identification. Additionally, the cards themselves will be built using new technology, making them much harder to forge.

    For more information on what is required to obtain your REAL ID visit, https://iowadot.gov/mvd/realid/.

    Conference Sheds Light on Concussions with Student Athletes

    Teachers, school nurses, athletic trainers, and health care providers met this week in Coralville to discuss treatment of students inflicted by concussions from sports. Concussions may be difficult to recover from and may leave a long lasting impact due to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.

    Participants at the conference discussed the protocol of remove, reduce, and rest. The student is required to be removed immediately from a sporting event in the event of concussion and is unable to return until after the return-to-play protocol is followed. Treatment includes reducing home stimulation including texting, social media, video games, TV, driving, and loud places. After the initial concussion, rest is the main ingredient for improvement.

    A show of hands at the event from school representatives indicated that many were unsure or did not think that their school had a return-to-play protocol in place; which is now required as of July 1st after the 2018 concussion law passed the legislature. Personnel of public and private schools also need to develop a return-to-learn plan as part of the law.

    Frustration was expressed at the conference about the pressure young student athletes face to go back into their sport as soon as possible given the possibility of losing a lucrative career in a sport. There is a need for student athletes to accept the new state regulations and be honest with health care professionals about their symptoms.

    The conference also discussed the need for improving Iowa’s law further. This includes required communication with notification clarifications, what extracurricular activities that the student can still participate in, and strengthening the law on removal from a sports activity. These changes could be considered for the 2020 legislative session.

    Stop the Spread of Zebra Mussels

    Zebra mussels are invasive small, finger-nail sized clams that live in freshwater. They are native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia and came to the U.S. on transatlantic ships.

    Once zebra mussels are established in Iowa lakes they spread rapidly because females can produce up to one million eggs per summer. Larvae can travel from lake to lake in livewells, bilge water, and bait buckets. Adult zebra mussels can attach themselves to boats and be transported to other bodies of water. They compete with other organisms in the water for food, they cover beaches with dead shells, and they kill native species of mussels.

    Zebra mussels were first found in Iowa in the Mississippi River near Burlington in 1992. Since then zebra mussels have been found in several inland lakes. Juvenile zebra mussels were recently found in Crystal Lake in north central Iowa. It is illegal to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species which includes zebra mussels. To help prevent the spread of zebra mussels:

    • Clean any plants, animals, or mud from boat and equipment before you leave a water body.
    • Drain water from all equipment (motor, live well, bilge, transom well, ballast bags, bait bucket) before you leave a water body.
    • Dry anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, boots, clothing, dogs). Before moving to another waterbody spray your boat and trailer with hot, high-pressure water or dry your boat for 5 days.
    • Never release plants, fish, or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.

    For more information on preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species visit, https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/About-Fishing-in-Iowa/Fighting-Invasive-Species.

    Governor Appoints Empower Rural Iowa Program Manager

    The Governor appointed Liesl Seabert as the Rural Community Revitalization Program Manager for the Empower Rural Iowa Initiative. Seabert will work with rural communities to provide a plan for revitalizing the state’s rural communities.

    The Center for Rural Revitalization will develop and oversee a long-term strategy for revitalizing rural communities in the state as part of the Empower Rural Iowa program. The bi-partisan Empower Rural Iowa bill, House File 772, was passed by the Iowa Legislature last session. The bill clarified standards for providing grants for the expansion of broadband internet services in the state. The bill also increased tax incentives for the Workforce Housing program, which expands housing opportunities in the state focusing on projects using abandoned, empty, or dilapidated properties.

    Seabert previously served as the community development manager at the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

    Work-Based Learning Projects Now Available to Schools

    More than 100 work-based learning projects are now available to students and schools for the 2019-20 school year through a new virtual state clearinghouse.

    The Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, funded in the education budget, connects K-12 students, schools, and employers through shared projects that enable students to learn through professional experiences. The goal is to expand access to work-based learning projects statewide so that students can connect what they’re learning in the classroom to careers.

    The clearinghouse has two key features:

    • A project board that business partners post projects which are available to go into K-12 classrooms.
    • An inventory for teachers to find student internships, apprenticeships, and other on-site work-based learning opportunities statewide.

    More information can be found at: https://clearinghouse.futurereadyiowa.gov.