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Nearly a quarter of a million patients covered by Medicaid, Iowa’s health care program for the poor, disabled, and elderly, are advised to watch the mail for a new insurance card.  

One of the three for-profit companies who have been managing the program since last year is pulling out.  

The Department of Human Services has been negotiating for months with the companies trying to agree on rates and terms for this year.      

They include Amerigroup Iowa, UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, and AmeriHealth Caritas.   

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

Updated Nov. 2--U.S. Department of Agriculture nominee Sam Clovis of Iowa withdrew from consideration to be the agency's top scientist amid questions about his connection to the Russia probe. 

Clovis sent a letter to President Trump asking for his name to be withdrawn. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new initiative to combat childhood obesity in Iowa will get underway next month as nearly one-third of Iowa 10 to 17- year- olds remain overweight or obese.      

Communities in Mills, Dubuque, Henry, and Fayette Counties will receive $18,000 grants to promote the program known as “5210-Healthy Choices Count.”

“This is the first statewide effort to provide consistent messaging and programming regarding the subject of childhood obesity,” said Iowa Department of Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh.

An event Monday planned to mark two Midwestern political appointees joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture was partly spoiled by a political dispute over biofuels.  

John Pemble / IPR

A lawsuit against the Board of Regents in the recruiting and hiring of the University of Iowa president has been dismissed.

The lawsuit accused five current and former regents of breaking the state’s open meetings law by scheduling private meetings to recruit UI President Bruce Harreld. The regents asked the court dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that a majority of the board was never present at the same time during the back-to-back meetings on one day in 2015.

The court has sided with the regents.

Bill Badzo/flickr

There was another court ruling today against public employees over a new state law limiting their bargaining rights in the workplace.

Polk County District Judge Arthur Gamble today threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

The new law treats public safety employees differently than other public workers.

AFSCME claimed that was a violation of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa is participating in what researchers are calling the largest-ever genetic study of autism. They’re looking for 50,000 participants nationwide.

The study is being conducted by the New York-based Simons Foundation, which funds scientific research. The UI Carver College of Medicine is one of 25 sites across the country recruiting families to participate. An assistant professor of psychiatry, Jacob Michaelson, is the lead investigator in Iowa and says the project aims to gather genetic samples to help determine the causes of autism.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

A district court judge has yet to decide if a hearing is needed to determine whether a man accused in an Iowa City shooting can use a "stand your ground" defense.

The man accused of shooting three people in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall in August is asking the state to dismiss charges against him based on Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady Thursday issued an order for Iowa courts to follow, banning the routine use of restraints on juveniles during court proceedings.       

Advocates for juvenile offenders, including Drake University’s Middleton Center for Children’s Rights and the ACLU, recommended the change.

They note that in some Iowa counties, juveniles routinely appear before judges in handcuffs and shackles.  

lee county courthouse
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A federal hate crimes attorney says two men "kidnapped, suffocated and executed" a gender-fluid teen in Burlington.

Prosecutor Christopher Perras laid out the state’s case accusing Jorge Sanders-Galvez of first-degree murder in the killing of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson. The opening statement came Thursday after two full days of jury selection in Kekouk’s South Lee County Courthouse.

"The defendant and Jaron Purham shot and killed Kedarie, then took steps to cover it up," Perras says. He adds they had already "left a trail of evidence" after the killing on March 2, 2016.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Republican and Democratic senators from top corn- and ethanol-producing states say their pressure helped prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from changing rules governing renewable fuel production.

But at least one senator, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, says President Trump was their ace in the hole against an EPA chief who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry.

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 26, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

John Pemble/IPR

By a wide margin, public workers across Iowa have endorsed their union representation in recertification voting that ended this week, mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.   

But some public employees will not retain their unions, and their contracts will be dissolved. 

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new federal grant will fund a statewide media campaign to educate teenagers and young adults about the dangers of misusing prescription opioids.

Janet Nelson at the Iowa Department of Public Health says the campaign will work to fill gaps in knowledge about prescription drugs.

"Youth, a lot of times, feel that if a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it can't be harmful," Nelson says. 

The grant will also help three counties—Polk, Jasper and Scott—develop additional strategies to reduce problems with prescription opioid abuse.

Dean Borg/IPR

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops are now racing the fall weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly update says all of the state’s corn acreage is mature, but most of it is still in the field.

Only 23 percent of the corn crop is harvested. That’s two weeks behind average, and the smallest percentage at this stage of the season since 2009.

It’s the same for soybeans, the latest in the last eight years, with more than a one third of the Iowa’s soybean crop still in the field.

The USDA’s report says yields are running better than expected.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A plan that officials had hoped would keep health insurance affordable for thousands of Iowans has been withdrawn, clearing the way for premiums to more than double.    

Governor Reynolds' administration had been urging the federal government to approve its so-called stopgap plan.  

The plan would have restructured benefits for Iowans getting individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act in order to draw in more young healthy people to keep premiums down.  

ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Iowa State University’s new president is Wendy Wintersteen.

She’s been in various roles at Iowa State for nearly 40-years. She is currently Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences on the Ames campus.

Wintersteen, 61, becomes the first woman to hold Iowa State’s  presidency.

Iowa’s Board of Regents interviewed the three finalists  in closed sessions Monday, then in open session it voted unanimously to make Wintersteen Iowa State’s sixteenth president.

Amy Mayer/IPR

With former Gov. Terry Branstad as the U.S. ambassador to China, some Iowans see new opportunities for the state in that country.

“At the moment, as the former governor has taken up his position as the ambassador to Beijing, China’s on a lot of people’s minds,” says Jeffrey Kappen, a Drake University professor of international business. “And I and others would argue that we have a window of time where Iowa is on people’s minds in China and we should do everything we can do take advantage of the opportunity.”

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Farm lenders in northern Iowa are taking proactive steps to prevent farm foreclosures, and a business consultant says that has kept many struggling farmers in business while commodity prices remain low.    

David Underwood in Mason City, director of CFO On Demand, follows economic trends in that part of the state.   

He says lenders have formed so-called crisis committees to work with farmers before they get into too much trouble.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Navigators are getting ready to sign Iowans up for Obamacare next month despite uncertainty surrounding the health care law. They are preparing for the regular enrollment period as state and federal lawmakers continue to push for changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Karen Sullivan of Visiting Nurse Services manages a program in central Iowa that helps people sign up for insurance through the ACA. She says navigators are still scheduling appointments for November. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

People convicted of sex crimes are still required to register as sex offenders in Iowa even if they’re appealing their convictions, according to today's ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The case centers on the appeal of Brian James Maxwell, who was hired as a youth coordinator for two churches in the Winterset area in March 2014. That month he inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl who he met through this job.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she now has it in writing from the Environmental Protection Agency it will uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard. She got the news late Thursday night.

The Republican says she received a letter from EPA administrator Scott Pruitt pledging to support the RFS, which mandates the use of biofuels in gasoline. The Trump administration became the target of a heavy lobbying effort from Iowa elected officials and farm groups after it was reported the EPA would scale back the RFS. Ernst says she’s relieved.

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Actors huddle around microphones as foley artists create sound effects with musicians. They are performing a scene about a teenager running away from gunfire in Burundi. This is Pang!, a three-act play presented as radio theater on a stage at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.

Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

A town of 6,000 people in northwest Iowa will have its first Pride Festival this weekend to provide information, fun and fellowship for LGBTQ community.

Orange City, the seat of Sioux County, is home to Northwestern College, a Christian liberal arts school. Pride organizer Michael Goll is a Northwestern graduate and graphic designer. Today he lives in Orange City with his husband.

The pair and a couple of friends decided their small, conservative-leaning community needed to celebrate its LGBTQ culture because, as Goll says, “why not?”

Amy Mayer/IPR

Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that’ll be increasingly important to farmers as wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel.

In a field outside of Ames, Iowa, she swipes the paper towel across the head of a bright yellow-and-red sunflower—bred to feed Iowa State University fans’ frenzy for all things in the school’s colors—and transfers the pollen on the paper towel to a different flower. Researchers recently unlocked the genetic code of the entire plant, which means Barb will more quickly be able to identify the specific genes that play a role in self-pollination.

Sunflowers are a global commodity crop with a growing demand, though they’re currently a minor player on the United States’ agricultural scene. The genome-mapping is likely to create better hybrid seeds, but there’s no reason to expect the picturesque crop, despite its profit potential, will quickly overtake the Corn Belt.

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The Iowa economy is still growing, but not as robustly as predicted, and tax receipts for this budget year are off to a slow start.    

That’s the conclusion of members of the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference,  who say unless things pick up, this year’s state budget of $7.3 billion will have to be trimmed by roughly $130 million.

Department of Management Director Dave Roederer says there are several drags on the economy.

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is reporting strong revenue growth for fiscal 2017. The results are driven mostly by profits from its towable recreational vehicle division.

Revenue and income at Winnebago are up substantially from a year ago. The manufacturer of RVs brought in more than $1.5 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending August 26. That’s a nearly 59 percent increase from 2016. Operating income for the year improved by 90 percent to $125 million. Company president and CEO Michael Happe credits robust sales of its Grand Design towable division.

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

It’s less than two weeks until people have to start signing up for next year’s health insurance plans, and Iowans who buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what system they will use to buy insurance, what plans will be available to them, or how much they will have to pay.

Iowa is waiting for a last-minute decision from federal agencies on whether Iowans will buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, or through the state’s proposed "stopgap" system.

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