Healthcare

tom miller
Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s attorney general is joining colleagues from several other states in urging the president and congressional leaders to maintain funding for drug treatment in their effort to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The 20 attorneys general say changes to certain ACA provisions could eliminate billions of dollars of funding for drug treatment in the midst of an opioid epidemic.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is holding meetings around the state during the April recess. In a session with farmers, he heard complaints about health insurance premiums and deductibles continuing to climb. Grassley says the recent news that two companies will stop selling individual policies in the state, and the failure to get a new healthcare law signed, also concern him.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst told constituents in Elkader Monday that health care has been the biggest topic at town hall meetings, and Congress needs to work hard on new health care legislation.

She says she is worried the one remaining statewide health insurance carrier on Iowa's individual market will be free to raise its prices or will also pull out of the state.

Ernst says there is a new plan in the works to replace the Affordable Care Act, and she hopes it is ready before open enrollment starts for 2018.

The Iowa Hospital Association says it’s important not to lose the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. The warning comes after the insurance carriers Aetna and Wellmark announced this week that in 2018, they’ll stop selling individual policies on Iowa’s healthcare exchange created under the ACA.

Iowa will soon have only two insurance carriers providing individual healthcare policies. Connecticut-based Aetna has become the second company this week to announce it will stop selling insurance policies on Iowa’s public exchange in January 2018.

Earlier this week the Iowa Insurance Commission announced that Wellmark would also no longer provide individual plans in Iowa. Wellmark says rising costs are causing its departure. Aetna cites financial risk and an uncertain market outlook for its decision to exit.

wellmark building
Tony Webster / flickr

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is urging customers with individual health insurance policies to stay calm after Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield decided to stop selling individual plans. 

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said he is disappointed with Wellmark's decision. It affects more than 21,000 Iowans who bought individual Obamacare-compliant plans from Wellmark after the start of 2014. Those customers will have to find a new insurance plan for 2018. 

Congressman Steve King Facebook page

Republican U-S Congressman Steve King will cast the Iowa delegation’s only “yes” vote when the Republican health care bill comes to the House floor  Thursday.  King says he’ll vote in favor of the bill because he has a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to remove a requirement that all insurance policies provide certain benefits.

rod blum
Rod Blum for Congress

Iowa Republican Representative Rod Blum said Tuesday he will not support the House GOP’s health care plan in its current form.

The 1st District congressman tweeted that the American Health Care Act “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans.”

The repeal and replacement of much of Obamacare is supposed to get a vote on the House floor on Thursday. Dozens of Republican House members oppose the bill or have expressed major concerns.

President Trump met with House Republicans Tuesday to urge them to pass the health care bill.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst fielded several questions about health care today at a town hall-style meeting in Cedar Rapids.

Several questioners among the 1,000 or so people in the auditorium at Coe College pushed her to state her position on the House GOP health care plan.

"I can't say today whether I support it or don't support it," Ernst said. 

Ernst added the plan does not solve all health care issues.

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A new plan for health care in America, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is currently being debated by Congress, would replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to the new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, this plan has the potential to make many changes to health care policies in America. While it reduces the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years, it's also estimated to leave 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026.

Alex Proimos/flickr

Governor Branstad’s goal to open up more competition in the health care industry ran into some serious trouble at the statehouse Wednesday.   

A bill to clear the way for more for-profit health care facilities failed to clear a Republican-dominated panel.   

The governor wanted to do away with the state’s Certificate of Need program that requires new health care facilities to prove there’s a need for their services.  

Sarah Boden/IPR

Iowa’s Republican lawmakers are a step closer to defunding the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. A bill to instead fund organizations that don’t provide abortion services passed out of a state senate subcommittee today.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland supporters crammed into the meeting to voice their objection to the legislation. The hallway behind the senate chamber held those who couldn’t fit into the hearing room, with their chants of "Women's Rights! Women's Rights" carrying into the room.

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A repeal of the Affordable Care Act could leave more than 230,000 Iowans, including 25,000 children under the age of 18, without health coverage. That’s according to the Iowa Policy Project. Peter Fisher is research director for the IPP. He says there are two ways the ACA expanded access to care in Iowa.

“About 70,000 people were covered by the Medicaid expansion, and another 47,000 received subsidies for their insurance when they purchased insurance on the exchange. So there are two ways that the ACA insured substantially more Iowans than were previously insured,” he explains.

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Republican-controlled Iowa statehouse aims to limit abortion access by cutting off public funding to Iowa’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics, which serve a reported 26,000 patients.

Lawmakers say they’ll fund sexual and reproductive healthcare services provided by organizations other than Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. But the healthcare organization said in a conference call this morning this will create a vacuum for critical services.

FLICKR / WILLIAM PATRICK BUTLER

Opponents of the privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid system say recent revelations show the program should not be run by for-profit companies. A Des Moines Register report this week revealed the three companies in charge of Iowa Medicaid say they are facing dramatic losses.

When private companies took over Iowa’s Medicaid system in April, many wondered if they could make a profit. The companies claimed profits would come as a result of better management, but now they say underfunding is threatening the program’s stability and that state payments are insufficient.

Mandie/flickr

Women who use legal drugs such as alcohol during pregnancy could be reported for possible child abuse under proposed legislation state lawmakers may be considering in January.   

Currently, mandatory reporters of child abuse must speak up if it appears an infant is born with exposure to illegal drugs. 

However, mandatory reporting does not kick in if the baby is showing signs of withdrawal from other substances.

Wellcome Images

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury talk with medical providers about how different medical robots work, as well as the pros and cons of working side-by-side with machines to provide patient care.

Robots at the bedside: Telemedicine and the stroke robot

Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission says more than $700,000 in grants will be awarded to 16 healthcare professionals who work in rural Iowa. The grants will be matched by the communities where the recipients are employed.

Danielle Weber is a physical therapist who lives and works in Jefferson, the seat of Greene County. With more than $80,000 in debt she says the grant is like winning the lottery.

She explains that while her tuition at Des Moines University was “not cheap,” salaries in rural communities tend to skew lower.

Emily Woodbury

Andrew Duarte was only 31 years old when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. One of the biggest questions he had was, “What can I expect?”

“And there’s not really a good answer for that,” he says.

Today on Talk of Iowa - living with Parkinson’s disease. Host Charity Nebbe sits down with two Parkinson's patients and a clinical researcher to talk about recent developments in Parkinson’s research and find out what it’s like to live with the disease.

File Photo, House Democratic Caucus

With the privatization of Iowa’s health care program for the poor and disabled set to go into effect tomorrow, state lawmakers Wednesday grilled company representatives and Medicaid managers about the change.    

There was emotional debate in the House about a young cancer patient’s treatment being delayed.        

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Iowa no longer has the only statewide telemedicine abortion network in the country. Today, Maine Family Planning has started providing the service at 16 of its clinics. 

"It was helpful for us to be able to look at another very rural state, not necessary a completely blue state, another state we could relate to and say this can be done," says Maine Family Planning's Jennifer Thibodeau. "It was just inspiring to see another state that we really felt similar to, be able to expand access at a time when other states are really struggling to keep doors open."

Dozens of Iowans begged members of the Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee Wednesday to make sure the state provides extensive oversight of the three healthcare management companies that will soon manage Iowa’s Medicaid system. The federal government says privatization can begin April 1. 

John Pemble/IPR

After months of discussion, out of state for-profit companies now have the go-ahead to take over Iowa’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled on April 1st.  

The Branstad administration Tuesday received word of approval from the federal government though the date was once again delayed.  

In December, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delayed implementation from January 1st to March 1st, stating that key requirements on 16 action items were not met, including adequate provider networks to serve Iowa’s more than 500,000  Medicaid patients. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Even though lawmakers in the Iowa Senate voted to stop privatization of the state's Medicaid program last week, the measure is unlikely to pass in the Iowa House. The system is still slated to switch to private management on March 1 unless the federal government steps in. 

Astrid Westvang / Flickr

Every year, thousands of Iowa children are diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. While the condition is common and one of the most studied disorders in medicine, it still remains controversial.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Shannon Krone, a mother who struggled with her son’s behavior problems from an early age. Her son’s ADHD is more manageable with treatment, but still poses obstacles in day-to-day life.

Save Medicaid Action

Democrats in the Iowa Senate today ratcheted up their challenge to Governor Branstad’s plan to privatize Medicaid, the state’s health care program for the low-income and disabled.  

They introduced a bill to repeal the initiative, but Republicans are standing by the Governor’s proposal.  

Democrats say privatizing Medicaid will disrupt long-standing relations between patients and providers and compromise patient care.   Their bill would cancel the contracts with three for-profit, out of state companies chosen to manage the program.     

UCI UC Irvine/flickr

A Democratic-backed bill in the Iowa Senate designed to improve access to contraceptives, especially in rural Iowa, passed a first hurdle at the statehouse Wednesday.     

Under the bill, women on Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income Iowans, would receive a full year of birth control pills, instead of the current limit of three months.   

Robins Democrat Liz Mathis says for rural women, getting to a pharmacy that often can be an impediment. 

A year ago, Iowans enrolled in the healthcare startup Co-Opportunity found out they were losing their healthcare coverage. Since then a dozen of these so-called “co-ops” that were funded by the federal government have failed.

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

The Branstad administration is planning to shift Iowans who benefit from Medicaid to private management on Jan. 1, a move that would impact more than 560,000 recipients.

The governor contends that private management companies can offer more efficient service and save money, while those who rely on the program are worried, including Iowa City resident Heather Young.

“My husband and I are doing everything we can to keep the ship afloat," Young says. "Even with our best efforts, if this thing goes through, this ship is going to get torpedoed."

March of Dimes

Iowa earns a grade of C on a report card issued by the March of Dimes.

The rating measures the rate of premature births in the state, and it shows a disparity between the races.

The percentage of babies born before full term in Iowa is 9.3.

For blacks, it’s 11.7 percent.

The state director of programs and advocacy for the March of Dimes, Michelle Gogerty says it’s not clear why this disparity exists.

She says the state chapter is working to do something about it.

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