July 2, 2019

    New Laws Going into Effect July 1
    More Turmoil in Medicaid Privatization & Health Care
    Attorney General Requests Records on Clergy Abuse from Diocese
    New Safety Measures after 2017 School Bus Fatal Accident
    ITT Tech Students Receive Debt Forgiveness Under Settlement
    Stopping the Spread of Invasive Species in Iowa

    New Laws Going into Effect July 1

    A host of new laws will take effect on July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.

    A number of bi-partisan bills were passed during the 2019 Legislative Session designed to protect Iowans. In an effort to curb the abuse of opioids in Iowa, a new law will make it easier for those seeking treatment to access medication. Another law creates new tools to fight human trafficking in Iowa by protecting victims related to unlicensed massage therapy.

    In education this year, the legislature extended the SAVE program to allow schools to invest in infrastructure and building repairs needed across Iowa. Lawmakers also continued state law that encourages more cooperation between local school districts to give our kids the best education possible.

    Other highlights of new laws that start July 1 include: “Logan’s Law” that puts an organ donation check box on hunting and fishing licenses; the “Iowa Care Givers Act” to provide more support to seniors transitioning out of hospitals; and a new program to prevent Iowans from losing their professional licenses if they are behind on their student loan repayments.

    For a full list of bills going into effect July 1, log on to https://iowahouse.org.

    More Turmoil in Medicaid Privatization & Health Care

    Governor Reynolds ousted her own Director of the Department Human Services last week without explanation. There was no plan in place to replace Director Jerry Foxhoven, and no reason was provided to the public as to why he was asked to resign. The Governor’s Office has refused to provide any additional information to lawmakers or the press.

    The news comes as 425,000 Iowans on Medicaid are being forced to switch to a different out of state company (MCO) to receive their health care beginning on July 1. Director Foxhoven was in the middle of contract negotiations with the MCO’s for next year and no agreement has been reached.

    Recent changes have highlighted the disastrous effect Medicaid privatization has had on hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens. In late March, it was announced that UnitedHealthcare would be departing Iowa no later than June 30, leaving Amerigroup as the only original managed care organization (MCO) still serving in the state. This is the third MCO to discontinue services since privatization began in 2016. A new MCO, Iowa Total Care is scheduled to come online on July 1.

    To help fix the Medicaid mess, Democratic lawmakers have proposed several different solutions. However, House Republicans and the Reynolds Administration have refused to make any changes. This mess will not fix itself, and until the GOP admits this privatization experiment is a complete failure, Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens will continue to suffer.

    Here is the timeline of events that led to this latest unexpected change:

      December 18, 2015- WellCare MCO contract terminated due to failure to disclose information to the state

      April 1, 2016- Medicaid privatization begins

      June 16, 2017-Jerry Foxhoven appointed as new DHS Director

      October 31, 2017- DHS announced AmeriHealth leaving Iowa

      October 31, 2017- MCOs receive a 3.3% raise

      August 2018- Governor Reynolds gives the MCOs a 7.5% increase, more than double that of the previous raise

      December 2018- Republicans gave $141 million more to the MCOs through a supplemental appropriation- revised to $150 million in March

      March 29, 2019- UnitedHealthcare announced they were leaving the state

      March 2019- MCOs given another 0.5% raise in capitation payments

      April 2019- Federal investigation of MCOs in Iowa and other states

      June 17, 2019- Director Foxhoven forced to resign, effective immediately

      June 26, 2019- State Auditor Sand announces investigation into MCO compliance issues

      June 30, 2019- Unitedhealthcare leaves Iowa

      July 1, 2019- Iowa Total Care comes online

    Attorney General Requests Records on Clergy Abuse from Diocese

    Earlier this month, the Iowa Attorney General’s office requested information on records of clergy abuse from Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, and Sioux City dioceses after meeting with abuse survivors.

    The Attorney General has requested that bishops send records and files on several topics by August 1st, including:

    • Lists of all priests, deacons, or other clergy who have been “credibly accused” by the dioceses of sexual abuse;
    • List of accused clergy where the dioceses deemed the accusation “not credible”;
    • Notes from meetings of diocesan boards of reviews convened to consider accusations;
    • Documentation of abuse reports received by diocesan officials and the actions taken;
    • Copies of all settlement agreements between diocesan officials and abuse survivors

    The office has also launched a hotline for survivors to call and report abuse at 1-855-620-7000. Survivors can also fill out a questionnaire at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov. Trained advocates are available to gather information and an investigator will review the report. Survivor identities will remain confidential.

    Survivors of any crime may receive free and confidential support 24/7 by contacting the Iowa Victim Service Call Center at 1-800-770-1650 or by texting “IOWAHELP” to 20121. The Call Center’s referral information and services are available in all 99 counties.

    New Safety Measures after 2017 School Bus Fatal Accident

    Inspectors with the federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have concluded their investigation into a school bus accident near Oakland, Iowa that killed a 16 year-old girl and the bus driver. The report concluded that a fire suppression system and fire-restraint interior could have given the occupants more time to escape after it caught fire. In addition, the driver’s physical condition contributed to him not being able to assist the girl in exiting the bus.

    Iowa rules require a bus driver to pass a biennial physical and have the ability to operate all safety equipment including providing assistance to passengers in evacuation of the school bus. The bus driver was scheduled for back surgery the week of the accident and was walking with a walker.

    The accident was caused after the driver picked up the student, backed up out of her driveway too far into the ditch. He then proceeded to press down on the gas pedal to get out, but the tail pipe was blocked by the ditch, and the engine caught fire.

    Iowa New School Bus Rules Coming

    Iowa is in the process of updating its school bus rules including safety equipment. They will also require new buses that are purchased to be equipped with 3-point shoulder belts that will reduce whip lash in a crash but also save lives in a roll-over situation.

    The State Board of Education has provided initial approval on new rules that have had one public hearing and will go before the Administrative Rules Review Committee on July 9th. The multiple requirements include the following:

      • School districts to document that bus evacuation drills are being done twice a year, as required by law.
      • More safety equipment on buses, including 3-point shoulder belts and additional stop arms on all new buses and reflectors.
      • Inspections of all school vehicles used to take students to and from activities. Currently smaller vehicles are used to transport a small group of students for an extracurricular activity.
      • Allowing school districts to increase school bus ride time (currently 75 min. one-way for high school and 60 min. for elementary) by 15 minutes if they hold a public hearing.

    ITT Tech Students Receive Debt Forgiveness Under Settlement

    Iowans who are former students at ITT Tech, which went bankrupt, will have more than $1.3 million in student loan debt forgiven as part of an agreement reached by Iowa’s Attorney General. Nationally, the settlement will result in debt relief of more than $168 million for 18,664 former ITT students, of which 143 were from Iowa.

    The settlement includes Student CU Connect (CUSO) LLC, a credit union service organization that offered loans to finance students’ tuition at ITT Tech. The attorney general alleged that ITT, with CUSO’s knowledge, offered students temporary credit upon enrollment to cover the gap in tuition between federal student aid and the full cost of the education. The temporary credit was due to be repaid before the student’s next academic year, although ITT and CUSO knew or should have known that most students would not be able to repay the temporary credit when it became due.

    Many students complained that they thought the temporary credit was like a federal loan and would not be due until six months after they graduated. When the temporary credit became due, ITT pulled students out of class and threatened to expel them if they did not accept the loan terms which carried high interest rates. Also ITT’s credits would not transfer to most other schools, so most students enrolled in the CUSO loans.

    The defaulted loans continue to affect students’ credit ratings and are usually not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Under the settlement, the CUSO, under threat of litigation, has agreed that it will forgo collection of the outstanding loans. The settlement also requires the CUSO to supply credit reporting agencies with information to update credit information for affected borrowers.

    Stopping the Spread of Invasive Species in Iowa

    Iowa is in the works of preventing the spread of gypsy moth that is an invasive leaf-eating insect that kills trees and shrubs.

    Since their spread west, they are now established in northeast Iowa. A single gypsy moth caterpillar can consume as much as one square foot of leaves per day. Gypsy moths are especially prone to eat the leaves of hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, and maple.

    In Allamakee and Jackson counties, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) are working together to prevent the spread by having planes spray two zones in an effort to prevent mating. The spray is an organic certified substance that will coat trees and release a synthetic gypsy moth mating pheromone in effort to disrupt mating. The spray is not harmful to humans and will not kill the moths. The DNR and IDALS have also set traps in the zones to prevent the spread of the insect.

    For more information on the gypsy moth visit, http://iowatreepests.com/gm_home.html.