The opening day ceremonies and speeches are over and the 2018 Iowa General Assembly is well underway.
The most pressing issue facing the Legislature this year will be more budget cuts. In her Condition of the State Speech, Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed some $19 million dollars in cuts to Iowa’s universities, prisons and the Department of Human Services.
Among other things, the cuts will probably mean higher tuition for Iowa students and their families. In a fairly short period of time, Iowa has gone from a budget surplus to a budget nightmare, despite a growing economy.
An issue of particular interest to me this session is what’s been called the “Medicaid Mess.”
Two years ago, the Reynolds administration turned Iowa’s Medicaid program over to for-profit, out-of-state corporations. Since then, service providers have gone unpaid, patients have lost services and Iowa taxpayers may be on the hook for higher costs.
The Reynolds administration imposed this Medicaid program on Iowa without any input from your elected representatives. Recently, many Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for change in the Medicaid program. In her speech, the governor herself conceded “mistakes were made” in privatizing Medicaid, but did not offer any concrete plans for changes.
Sen. Matt McCoy and I have been working between sessions on a bill to turn Medicaid back to state control and create a new public health insurance option for Iowans to purchase on the individual marketplace. Iowans who currently receive financial assistance on the marketplace would still be eligible to receive it. Our proposal is called “Healthy Iowans for a Public Option.” House File 2002 is assigned to the Commerce Committee. It has more than 20 co-sponsors. Will Republicans sign on? Do they have any ideas of their own to help providers, patients and taxpayers? We will find out over the next 100 days what — if anything — they are prepared to do.
Also this session I will continue to focus on the major health issue of prescription drug abuse. We will be working with the Iowa Pharmacy Association and the medical community to make the prescription drug monitoring program more effective in monitoring the use of controlled substances in our state.
Opioid abuse is the No. 1 public health issue in America and we must act.
by Representative John Forbes