Branstad bill would reduce insurance coverage for mental health care

Governor Terry Branstad has introduced a bill that would make Iowa the only state not to license mental health counselors. House Study Bill 138 would remove licensing requirements for a number of professions and eliminate some state boards, including the Board of Behavioral Sciences and the Board of Social Work. Mental health counselors are expressing alarm about language that would make social workers, marriage or family counselors, and mental health counselors “registered” rather than “licensed.”

The likely consequence would be insurance companies refusing to cover services by unlicensed providers, depriving Iowans of access to therapy unless they are able to pay the full cost of mental health counseling out of pocket.

I enclose below an action alert the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association posted yesterday, which contains talking points to use when communicating with state lawmakers about House Study Bill 138. The bill has been assigned to a subcommittee of Republican State Representatives Bobby Kaufmann and Dawn Pettengill and Democratic State Representative Mary Mascher.

The lobbyist for the association representing mental health counselors said yesterday, “The bill as drafted will not be having a subcommittee next week and is taking on serious water. The speaker’s office said that [House Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s] members are getting more emails on the licensure provisions of that bill than they did on collective bargaining.” According to one rumor, the bill may be revised and reintroduced next week, so concerned citizens should call the governor’s office (515-281-5211) to share their views with Branstad’s staff.

UPDATE: A Facebook commenter reached Kaufmann, chair of the subcommittee, by phone on February 24: “He said this bill was assigned to him, he thinks it’s a bad bill and he’s going to kill it.”

Continue Reading...

We all need to come together to make medical cannabis work in Iowa

Advocate Quinn Symonds shares his perspective on some medical cannabis proposals recently introduced in the state legislature. Iowa’s very limited current law, which is unworkable even for families of those suffering from seizure disorders, expires in July. Efforts to expand it failed in the Iowa House last year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’ve been asked to talk about the medical cannabis bills. There are basically two sides to watch right now. There are several bills introduced by Democrats and bills introduced by two Republicans, Iowa House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler and Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Zaun. I will be referring to Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom’s proposals. He has two out currently: a version of last year’s bill that failed to pass, and a “newer” version of the same bill. On the Republican side I will focus on Baudler’s bill. These bills aren’t exactly great: they are supposed to help patients, and neither would do much of that.

Continue Reading...

3,000 University of Iowa students will pay the price for Republican budget policies

See important update below: Jon Muller questions whether the University of Iowa “committed an act of scholarship fraud.”

Three weeks after Governor Terry Branstad signed into law large mid-year budget cuts for Iowa’s state universities, some 3,015 incoming or current students at the University of Iowa learned that they will be picking up part of the tab.

Continue Reading...

David Young on the Affordable Care Act: Raising more questions than answers

Former Des Moines Register investigative reporter Tom Witosky dissects a letter he received from the Republican who represents Iowa’s third Congressional district. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Congressman David Young has scheduled a town hall meeting for today at Living History Farms. Clearly, one of the topics to be discussed will be the Affordable Health Care Act and what the Republican majority intends to do to it.

As fate would have it, I received a lengthy response from Congressman Young about my concerns about the Republican plans on Tuesday.

First some background. Up until I became eligible for Medicare almost a year ago, my wife and I purchased our health insurance on the federal exchange.

Our experience was good. We kept our doctors, the level of deduction was acceptable (stay healthy and you don’t need to worry about it) and the premium cost was acceptable. We received no subsidy. Especially important is the ACA requiring coverage of all purchasers with a pre-existing condition. My wife, who is still purchasing her health insurance on the exchange, has one that insurance companies commonly declined to cover or placed limits on.

I provide this background because Young’s letter to me outlines a position that attempted to persuade me major problems exist within the ACA that apparently deserve radical change.

Continue Reading...

If Todd Prichard runs for governor, his stump speech will sound like this

State Representative Todd Prichard spoke to a packed room at last night’s Northwest Des Moines Democrats meeting. Now in his third term representing Floyd and Chickasaw counties in the Iowa House, Prichard is ranking member on the Agriculture Committee and also serves on Natural Resources, Veterans, and Ways and Means, as well as on an Appropriations subcommittee. Pat Rynard recently profiled the army veteran and former prosecutor who may run for governor in 2018.

I’ve transcribed most of Prichard’s remarks from the Des Moines gathering below and uploaded the audio file, for those who want to listen. He speaks directly and fluidly without coming across as rehearsed or too polished, a common problem for politicians.

At one point, Prichard commented that Republicans didn’t spend a million dollars trying to defeat him last year, as the GOP and conservative groups did against several Iowa Senate Democratic incumbents. Republicans tested some negative messages against him with a telephone poll in August, but apparently didn’t sense fertile ground. Prichard’s opponent Stacie Stokes received little help from her party, compared to some other GOP candidates for Iowa House seats, including a challenger in a nearby district.

Based on the speech I heard on Tuesday, I would guess that if Prichard runs for governor, Republicans may regret not spending a million dollars against him in 2016.

One more point before I get to the transcript: Prichard is living proof that retiring lawmakers should not be allowed to hand-pick their own successors. When State Representative Brian Quirk resigned to take another job soon after winning re-election in 2012, he wanted his former high school football coach Tom Sauser to take his place. As a Bleeding Heartland reader who’s active in Floyd County described here, Prichard decided to run for the House seat shortly before the special nominating convention and barely won the nomination.

Prichard had a chance to start his political career because several days elapsed between his learning about Quirk’s preferred successor and the House district 52 nominating convention. Too often, Iowa Democratic legislators announce plans to retire only a day or two before candidates must submit papers to the Secretary of State’s Office. If Quirk had retired right before the March 2012 filing deadline, as three House Democrats did last year, his friend with the inside track would have been the only Democrat able to replace him. Nothing against retired teachers, but Sauser was not a potential future leader of the party, as Prichard is becoming.

Continue Reading...
View More...