These days there is a lot of talk about improving health care nationwide. In Iowa, it’s not just talk. We’ve taken big steps toward making sure all Iowans have access to the best possible health care.
This year in the Legislature, we kept Iowa moving forward by:
• Attracting more doctors to rural Iowa. We’re helping medical students repay their student loans when they practice in areas of the state that need more doctors (HF 2458).
• Reforming Iowa’s mental health system. This is a major undertaking that will ensure all Iowans get high-quality mental health care regardless of where they live (SF 2315).
• Ensuring your treatment preferences are respected by making them part of a medical order that healthcare providers can rely on (HF 2165).
• Helping seniors live independently and safely through community based services and less dependence on institutional care (SF2336).
• Making sure Iowa’s nursing homes are safe (SF 2316).
• Establishing statewide standards so that Iowans, including returning soldiers, who need prosthetics and orthotics get top-quality products and services (SF 364).
• Supporting local health care services to make Iowa a healthier place, help Iowans quit smoking and provide low-income Iowans with access to preventive health screenings (SF2336).
There is still plenty to do, especially when it comes to reducing the high cost of health care and health insurance. Many working Iowans have no health insurance, making them reluctant to see a doctor until they’re desperate enough to go to the emergency room. That’s expensive and doesn’t produce the best results.
When uninsured Iowans can’t pay their medical bills, the price of everyone’s health care goes up to cover the unpaid expenses. A study by the Iowa Hospital Association found that uncompensated care cost Iowa hospitals—and ultimately you and me—more than $851 million in 2010.
If we want to keep the cost of health care in check, we must keep working on solutions. Thank goodness Iowa health care providers, business leaders and consumer advocates have been proactive in solving our state’s challenges over the years. By working together, Iowa can continue leading the nation on the health care front.
New funding for SE Iowa airport
The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved funding for the State Aviation Program, which seeks to maintain a safe air transportation system statewide. Funding will go to improve local airports from aircraft registration fees, aviation fuel taxes and with dollars from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
The Burlington–Southeast Iowa Regional Airport was awarded $94,903 to replace a 70-year-old hangar. For more on aviation in Iowa, visit www.iowadot.gov/aviation.
Improving Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services
A major step in our efforts to improve health care in Iowan came this year when we approved a sweeping overhaul of how our state provides mental health and disability services to Iowans who need them. It was a bipartisan effort, with legislators working together and taking suggestions from consumers, health care providers and other concerned Iowans on how to best organize the new system.
The redesigned Mental Health and Disability Services system will provide Iowans better access to mental health services through a regional system, rather than the county system that is currently in place. Senate File 2315 creates a new structure in which the state sets standards and designates regions to administer the services, which will be provided in local communities. This arrangement will save money, eliminate administrative duplication and offer consistency in both rural and urban counties.
Thanks to this redesigned system, more Iowans will get high-quality services, whether they live in rural or urban Iowa.
What do federal health care changes mean for Iowa?
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal Affordable Care Act. This federal initiative has already helped thousands of Iowans by expanding access to health care, lowering costs and increasing preventative care. This includes:
• Helping Iowans with pre-existing conditions get coverage.
• Ensuring Iowans no longer have lifetime caps on health insurance policies.
• Providing Iowans with preventative health services without co-pays. This includes well-child visits, cancer screenings and immunizations.
• Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy up to age 26.
• Saving Iowa seniors on Medicare thousands on prescription drugs.
Federal efforts could also expand Medicaid coverage to more than 80,000 additional Iowans, many of whom work fulltime. This will lower health care costs for everyone by ensuring more Iowans are able to get regular checkups and preventive care, rather than relying on expensive emergency room visits.
With the federal commitment to pay for almost all of the cost, Iowans might save as much as $316 million annually if we participate in the Medicaid Expansion offered under federal health care reform, according to the non-partisan Urban Institute.
Rural Iowa needs more doctors
Having a primary care doctor in your community can save lives, save money and improve everyone’s quality of life. But in some rural parts of our state, we have a critical shortage of doctors.
When students get done with medical school, their first priority is often paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. The higher pay they often can earn in urban areas is an attractive lure. They may not even consider practicing medicine in small towns and rural areas.
We addressed that problem this year by creating the Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program (HF 2458). This state and local partnership will help new doctors repay their student loans, provided they agree to work in rural Iowa for at least five years.
It’s just one more way we’re helping all Iowans get the health care they need, no matter where they live.
News you can use
Sales tax holiday, Aug. 3-4
The new school year is rapidly approaching. You can make your money go farther for your kids’ school clothes when you take advantage of Iowa’s annual sales tax holiday on Friday, August 3, and Saturday, August 4.
You’ll pay no sales tax on any clothing or footwear item under $100 at any business that is open during these two days. Items put in layaway are not taxable no matter when you pay them off. Items already in layaway that are paid off during the tax-free weekend are also tax exempt.
For more information, go to www.iowa.gov/tax/educate/holiday1.html.
Emergency grazing due to drought
In response to high temperatures and drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is authorizing emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land. So far, emergency grazing has been authorized for 25 counties and more counties are expected to be added to the list.
Livestock producers interested in grazing CRP land must get approval. For more information and the latest updates on counties approved for emergency grazing, contact your local FSA office or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/ia.
Protect yourself from whooping cough
The Iowa Department of Public Health is urging Iowa adults to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated for pertussis, or whooping cough.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whooping cough is causing the worst epidemic in the U.S. in more than 50 years. Iowa is among the states seeing a spread of pertussis, with cases nearly 500 percent higher than last year at this time.
The most common symptoms of pertussis in children are fits of coughing, followed by vomiting, a ‘whooping’ sound as air is inhaled, and difficulty sleeping. Adults, however, may experience only a lingering cough that lasts for weeks. Many adults may be contagious without even realizing they have pertussis.
For more information about pertussis, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/default.aspx?group=3#DI.
New online mobile Iowa jobs site
Iowa Workforce Development’s statewide job bank is now available 24/7 in a mobile version at http://workiniowa.jobs. Job opportunities can be searched by city, employer name and key word. The site only lists available jobs from employers verified by Iowa Workforce Development, so you can be sure you’re searching legitimate job openings.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601