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December 6th, 2017 Posted In: News

Despite the overwhelming outcry from Iowans struggling under ReynoldsCare, Governor Reynolds has buried her head in the sand and claims that her for-profit Medicaid scheme is not, in fact, collapsing.

She said directly on Iowa Press, “no it’s not imploding,” but here’s what Iowans are saying about the ReynoldsCare debacle:

DES MOINES REGISTER: Iowa Medicaid recipients mean ‘more than a dollar sign,’ emotional crowd tells state
The private companies are denying critical care, failing to properly notify Medicaid recipients of their basic appeal rights and often nonresponsive to serious questions, those who spoke from a crowd of more than 200 at Des Moines’ downtown library told state officials.

“She is more than a dollar sign, she is a person. A very valuable person,” an emotional Patti Murphy of Indianola said, pointing to her 39-year-old disabled daughter who survives on a ventilator.

DES MOINES REGISTER Letter to the Editor: A Medicaid patient lost the care he’d received for 20 years. 3 months later, he was dead.
Cyndi Mouw is speaking out, blaming her husband’s death on Iowa’s decision to turn over its Medicaid program to for-profit companies she believes are unilaterally denying or revoking medical services to potentially thousands of other disabled or elderly Iowans.

“If they’re trying to do this because they need to save money? Well, find other places,” Cyndi Mouw said. “And, yeah, I’m sure he’s not the only one.”

DES MOINES REGISTER Letter to the Editor: People are falling through the cracks with Medicaid privatization
“Privatization of Medicaid has left me in limbo. I’m scared of the consequences from this change. My funding has been cut severely by AmeriHealth Caritas and now they are pulling out. Maybe this was the plan all along, but maybe someone woke up and realized they were destroying lives and there was no politically correct way to do this.” – Jason Cantonwine, Ames

DES MOINES REGISTER: Letter to the Editor Iowa Medicaid is definitely in trouble
“Thousands of Iowans aren’t receiving the care they need or deserve from the MCOs hired to manage Iowa’s Medicaid. Some are even dying because of denied care. And the people of Iowa are subsidizing corporations that are designed to put profit ahead of our health and well-being.” – Jack Reardon, Clive

KCRG: Dubuque woman frustrated with Iowa Medicaid MCO changes
“We were both on AmeriHealth and we were notified that we were supposed to switch to Amerigroup if we wanted to remain at Medical Associates and we were supposed to call before the 16,” she said.

Meghan did just that, but it wasn’t very simple.

She said, “they denied me so many times and said that they didn’t see me anywhere in the system. I was like, ‘okay so where am I gonna deliver since I have absolutely no health insurance whatsoever?’ So it was really nerve-racking.”

WATERLOO FALLS COURIER: Iowa Medicaid enrollees worried by new turmoil
“When Director Foxhoven said there would be ‘bumps’ in the road, I took great issue with that. I wrote to him two weeks later to say, ‘My son is not a bump in your road,’” said Jeff Edberg of Iowa City, referring to his 15-year-old son Colin.

“Governor Reynolds is ignoring desperate cries for help from Iowa’s neediest citizens. Her refusal to give up this failed system is not only irresponsible, but it’s downright cruel,” said Iowa Democratic Party Spokesperson Tess Seger. “Reynolds needs to abandon this partisan experiment and work across the aisle to make sure every Iowan gets the care they need.”

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December 5th, 2017 Posted In: News

As those who hope to lead our state next year come together to discuss solutions to Iowa’s mental health crisis, Governor Kim Reynolds is conspicuously absent. Since the Governor will not show up to make her record known, the Iowa Democratic Party is releasing a reminder about her role in Iowa’s mental health crisis.

Under Kim Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa ranks second from the bottom among all states in terms of quality of mental health care, largely due to the state’s lack of beds for treatment. And Reynolds’ actions have only made this problem worse.

As Lieutenant Governor, she supported closing several mental health centers in Iowa. Patients died after being transferred from these closed facilities. And the bungled privatization of the state’s Medicaid program has put access to mental health care even more in jeopardy for vulnerable Iowans.

“Iowans concerned about access to mental health services in the state should be deeply alarmed by Governor Kim Reynolds’ shameful record on this issue,” said Iowa Democratic Party Spokesperson Tess Seger. “We need a governor who will step up and lead, not one whose fiscal mismanagement and misplaced priorities make it even more difficult for Iowans to access the care they need.”

BACKGROUND

In June 2016, Iowa was the Second Worst State for Mental Health in the U.S. According to WQAD, “Iowans have a long list of things to be proud of, but the quality of mental health services doesn’t make the cut. […] Iowa now ranks 49th in the nation with just 64 state-run mental hospital beds. Utah, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas, all similar in population to Iowa, have four times and in some cases eight times the amount of state beds available.” [WQAD, 6/15/16]

In 2015, Branstad Closed Two Iowa Mental Health Centers. According to the Des Moines Register, “Gov. Terry Branstad had the authority to close two state mental hospitals, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Thursday. […] Branstad drew fierce criticism for his decision last year to close the two state mental hospitals. He contended the facilities represented an outdated way of institutionalizing people with mental illnesses, and he said private agencies could provide the same services more effectively and efficiently. But his critics contend he moved too quickly, without ensuring adequate replacement services were available for fragile patients with complicated combinations of mental and physical ailments. Three former longtime patients of the Clarinda hospital died shortly after their transfers to private nursing homes, fueling the criticism.” [Des Moines Register, 11/10/16]

In 2015, Three Men Died After Being Transferred from One of the Facilities to a Nursing Home. According to the Associated Press, “Branstad and the Iowa Department of Human Services which oversaw the mental health facilities were further criticized after three men from the Clarinda facility last year died within weeks of the state’s transfer of them to a private nursing home.” [Associated Press, 11/10/16]

In 2014, Branstad Closed the Iowa Juvenile Home. According to KCCI, “Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says he stands by his decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home despite criticism from legislators. […] Branstad closed the facility in Toledo on Jan. 15 following allegations that teens were improperly treated and denied a proper education. The home housed some of Iowa’s most troubled girls.” [KCCI, 1/31/14]

  • Branstad and Reynolds Issued a Joint Statement in Support of the Iowa Juvenile Home Closure. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “The governor’s office issued statement Monday afternoon backing the DHS action, saying alternative placements in licensed or accredited settings would better serve the education and care needs of the vulnerable young Iowans served by the Iowa Juvenile Home. ‘Gov. Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds first priority has always been the health, safety and education of the children at the Iowa Juvenile Home and State Training School for Girls,’ according to a statement issued by Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht. ‘Gov. Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds support the Department of Human Services moving forward in the best interest of the children living at the Iowa Juvenile Home and fully implementing the Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force recommendations. Children should not face the stigma of a ‘placement of last resort,’’ according to the statement.” [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 12/9/13]
WQAD Headline: “Iowa mental health providers concerned with Medicaid instability.” According to WQAD, “As the clock winds down, thousands of Iowans who rely on Medicaid are scrambling to find a back-up plan. AmeriHealth Caritas, one of the three companies managing Iowa’s Medicaid system, is ending its services on November 30, 2017. ‘It feels like a crisis right now, trying to get this resolved quickly, because as of December 1st, which is Friday, thousands of Iowans will not have coverage,’ said Chris McCormick Pries, clinical director at Vera French Community Mental Health Center. On Wednesday, mental health professionals at Vera French shared their concerns with Iowa lawmakers, explaining that mental health patients will be especially vulnerable. ‘Medicaid is such a big part of their life, and it’s what covers their mental services to a large degree,’ said Richard Whitaker, CEO of Vera French. Whitaker called on legislators to bring stability to the state’s Medicaid system.” [WQAD, 11/29/17]

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December 5th, 2017 Posted In: News

The people of Iowa just couldn’t seem to catch a break this month due to the disastrous policies of Governor Kim Reynolds and her Republican Legislature, and instead of taking proactive moves to fix some of these problems, the governor either dug in her heels or ignored them completely.

“The Iowa Democratic Party is not about to let Governor Reynolds off the hook for a month that exposed the ever-worsening cracks in our state’s well-being,” said Iowa Democratic Party Spokesperson Tess Seger. “Iowans deserve leadership on all of these issues, but Governor Reynolds has let us down at every turn.”

ReynoldsCare Catastrophe
This week, Governor Reynolds reaffirmed her commitment to the privately managed Medicare system, but after this last month, it’s baffling as to why.

  • Iowans are suffering and calling on Governor Reynolds to make a substantive change, but the Governor has refused.
  • The whole point of moving over to this system was to give Medicaid enrollees more choices, and now they’re down to just one option.

The secrecy surrounding the negotiations was not only unacceptable, but directly hurt Iowa families when they chose to keep AmeriHealth’s exit from Iowa quiet for over a month, reducing the time available for families to transition to a new program.

Clearly, Governor Reynolds and her administration did not adequately prepare for AmeriHealth’s exit. 

Just days after the transition was announced, Amerigroup announced that they could not accept any more patients and lost their contract with UnityPoint Health, reducing options for those already on their plan.

Furthermore, while patients were initially promised that they would have a second option by July 2018, Reynolds administration officials have already extended that timeline by a year.

Partisanship Over Citizenship
Despite overwhelming evidence that the GOP Tax Plan in D.C. would hurt working Iowans, Governor Reynolds sided with her party and spoke out in favor of Republican tax reform.

The bill that Governor Reynolds endorsed would:

  • increase the deficit by over a trillion dollars
  • raise taxes on working and middle-income families
  • make healthcare prices skyrocket
  • cause mandatory cuts to critical services all while corporations and the wealthiest Americans get a tax break

Mishandling Sexual Harassment
After a jury awarded former GOP staffer Kirsten Andersen $1.75 million dollars in the middle of a budget crisis, Senator Bill Dix engaged in a series of misstepsthat spent more taxpayer dollars and did nothing to make the State Capitol a safer working environment.

Despite being the top elected official and highest ranking Republican in the State, Governor Reynolds has done nothing to help solve this problem and still has not withdrawn her full support for Senator Dix.

Earlier in the month, Ms. Anderson expressed her disappointment that the Governor had not done more or even acknowledged the wrongdoing in her own party.

Iowa Economy Slides Backwards
This month is was revealed that the state of Iowa was last in the nation for GDP growth in the second quarter.

This is particularly bad news in light of the Reynolds Budget Crisis, which was caused by special interest handouts that clearly failed to boost Iowa’s economy and resulted in cuts to vital services that attract and keep businesses in the state.

Governor Reynolds has yet to speak out on this issue or offer a solution.

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December 4th, 2017 Posted In: News

This weekend, Des Moines Register’s columnist Kathie Obradovich highlighted Governor Kim Reynolds’ failure to step out from the footprints of her predecessor and lead on the many critical issues facing Iowa:

“When she was asked what that unique Reynolds agenda might include, she had little new to offer. Her top priorities — workforce development and education, tax reform, water quality and renewable energy — are carried over from the Branstad administration….

“It appears she is prepared to maintain the same direction and approach to government set by her predecessor and make only incremental changes when there’s no other choice.

“Iowans who think the state is reaching its potential may be satisfied with that. Others, who think Iowa needs more proactive, creative approaches to long-nagging problems, will be looking for stronger leadership from the governor. And if they don’t get it soon, they have plenty of other choices to consider come spring.

See below for excerpts, or read the full story online HERE

DES MOINES REGISTER: Gov. Kim Reynolds can set own agenda, but so far, it’s Branstad all over again

Now, as she is preparing for her first legislative session as governor, this is Reynolds’ first real opportunity to forge an agenda of her own, separate from that of her old boss and mentor. She commented on her plans Friday during and after taping “Iowa Press,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sundayon Iowa Public Television.

But when she was asked what that unique Reynolds agenda might include, she had little new to offer. Her top priorities — workforce development and education, tax reform, water quality and renewable energy — are carried over from the Branstad administration.

So are most of the serious challenges the Reynolds administration has spent the last several months trying to manage.

Lower state revenues than projected forced Reynolds to borrow from reserve funds to balance the budget. Her budget will bear the marks of that shortfall next year, because the borrowed funds will have to be repaid.

…The state health care system is in disarray, due in part to the Branstad administration’s rush into privately managed care under Medicaid.    

…The growing sense of urgency to fill significant gaps in Iowa’s mental health system is recent, but the problem is far from new. Branstad closed two of the state’s four mental-health institutions in favor of still-patchy community-based services. 

…It’s possible Reynolds will use her Condition of the State message in January to set a new, bolder tone for her administration. So far, however, it appears she is prepared to maintain the same direction and approach to government set by her predecessor and make only incremental changes when there’s no other choice.

Iowans who think the state is reaching its potential may be satisfied with that. Others, who think Iowa needs more proactive, creative approaches to long-nagging problems, will be looking for stronger leadership from the governor. And if they don’t get it soon, they have plenty of other choices to consider come spring.

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