Highlights, dog whistles from an Iowa Senate debate

Matt Chapman closely follows Iowa legislative affairs, especially bills like the one discussed here. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa Senate Republicans have approved another bill targeting people receiving public assistance, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Senate File 2272, which passed along party lines February 26, would require the state to contract for extra screening, looking for evidence of Iowans enrolled in more than one state. Labor and Business Relations Committee chair Jason Schultz introduced and floor-managed the bill. He has been attempting to pass versions of this legislation for years and sponsored five bills in a similar vein in 2019.

The vendor that would receive the contract, LexisNexis, does similar work in other states, often flagging 15 percent of beneficiaries as possibly fraudulent. In the five southern states that have adopted this screening, further checks have confirmed dual participation by just 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of enrollees, on average.

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The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2019

Five years ago, I started taking stock of my most labor-intensive posts near the end of each year. Not all of these are my favorite projects, though invariably, some of my favorites end up on these compilations.

Before getting to the countdown for 2019, I want to give another shout out to guest authors who poured an extraordinary amount of work into two posts Bleeding Heartland published last year.

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Bill targeting Iowans on public assistance would cost $40 million by 2021

Matt Chapman has closely followed this year’s legislative proposals targeting Iowans on public assistance. -promoted by Laura Belin

A bill requiring more frequent reviews of Iowans’ eligibility for public assistance programs would cost the state an additional $40 million during the first two years alone, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The federal government would be on the hook for an additional $35 million during the same period.

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Miller-Meeks to Public Health and other Branstad appointment news

Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced today that ophthalmologist Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will run the Iowa Department of Public Health in his administration. A press release noted that Miller-Meeks “has served as the first woman President of the Iowa Medical Society and was the first [woman] on the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa and councilor for Iowa to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.” Miller-Meeks was the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district in 2008 and 2010. She worked hard during both campaigns but lost to Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s most Democratic-leaning Congressional district.

Also on December 9, Branstad announced that he will tap Chuck Palmer to head the Department of Human Services in his administration. Palmer did that job during Branstad’s previous time as governor from 1989 to 1999. Most recently he has been president of Iowans for Social and Economic Development, “an asset development organization with the mission of creating opportunities for low and moderate income Iowans to increase income and achieve financial stability.”

Branstad has pledged to reduce the size of state government by 15 percent, and keeping that promise would likely require significant cuts in the departments Miller-Meeks and Palmer will be running. The current budget (fiscal year 2011) allocated $935.5 million from the general fund to health and human services. That’s 17.7 percent of the general fund budget alone, or 15.9 percent of total state expenditures, including federal stimulus money and reserve funds as well as general fund spending. More than $200 million in federal stimulus money supported Iowa’s Medicaid budget in the current budget year, but similar support won’t be forthcoming in future years now that Republicans have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Branstad administration press releases on Miller-Meeks and Palmer are after the jump.

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