Last week, I joined several other state lawmakers for a roundtable and public forum in New Hampton, Iowa on the health care crisis we’re facing today.  The goal was to hear from Iowans on the front lines of the health care system about the challenges they face and to develop some ideas on how we can make health care more affordable and accessible.

We learned a lot and heard loud and clear that our health care system is getting worse, not better.  And that’s especially true in rural areas and small towns.  

We heard from the local hospital and ambulance provider that the private companies managing Medicaid are still not paying them for the health care they provide to Iowans and delaying payments for months.

We heard that transportation is a huge problem because many communities no longer have enough EMT volunteers to provide emergency care or ambulance service for local citizens who call 911.  That forces many Iowans facing a health emergency to choose between waiting for an ambulance ride or having to take a $65,000 helicopter ride to get the care they need before it’s too late.

While some of these are long-term issues, there is action we can take in the Legislature before we adjourn for the year to improve access to health care.

First, we need to fix our broken Medicaid system to guarantee health care providers are getting paid on time and legitimate claims aren’t being denied to increase profits for the out-of-state companies managing Medicaid.  Right now, it’s clear the Governor Reynolds and GOP lawmakers are not holding these private companies accountable or providing the oversight necessary to make the system work for Iowans.

Second, we need to finish work on a bill to create a new children’s mental health system.  Since Iowa is one of the few states that doesn’t have a system in place, it’s long overdue.  While a good bill is moving through the process right now, we need to work together in the closing days of session to cover more kids, make sure services are covered by insurance, and the state actually invests the resources necessary to help our kids.

We should also take action before we adjourn this session to make sure Iowans can’t be denied health care coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  Another bill that should become law will make insulin available to Iowans in emergency situations and yet another will make it easier to get treatment for substance abuse disorders.

I’m also hopeful for a bill to expand access to birth control for women will finally get signed in to law this year, it’s long overdue.  It’s a good step in reaching our goal of making family planning services available to all Iowans, regardless of where they live.

While there is a lot of work needed to fix the crisis we’re facing in health care, we can make progress this year to improve both the access and affordability of health care if we work together on these issues. 

Iowans expect us to drop the partisanship and focus on these common sense ideas that can make a difference in the lives of thousands of Iowans.