Iowa DHS won't vouch for accuracy of Medicaid data

The Iowa Department of Human Services “cannot ensure the accuracy, completeness, or reliability” of data released to the public about any programs administered by Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, including the managed-care system for some 600,000 Iowans on Medicaid.

When responding to all requests for information about Medicaid or related programs, the DHS also warns users that “there may be errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in the data provided.” Leading Iowa Senate Democrats were unaware of the disclaimer, which they described as “odd,” “troubling,” and “unacceptable.”

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New family planning program fails Iowans. Republicans don't want to know

Republican lawmakers made big promises last year that Iowans would have “more access” to family planning services under a new state program that excluded Planned Parenthood.

As anyone could have foreseen, the opposite was true. In the first nine months of the State Family Planning Program’s existence, the number of Iowans enrolled dropped by a third. The number who obtained at least one reproductive health care service fell by more than 40 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter the program was operating. The number of health care providers billing the program also declined by 40 percent during the same time frame.

Republican lawmakers don’t want to hear how poorly the new system is serving their constituents. Even worse, GOP state senators voted unanimously last week to compound the mistake by blocking Planned Parenthood from participating in sex education programs.

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Big changes, worrying signs at Des Moines Register

High-profile departures from the Des Moines Register newsroom have happened too often over the last decade. A series of layoffs and buyouts left readers less informed about important topics. For instance, ever since the Register let its last Washington-based correspondent go, readers rarely hear about what our state’s members of Congress are doing, unless the story originated from a press release or comments during a conference call with journalists.

The recent turnover at Iowa’s most important agenda-setting news organization is worrying for heavy consumers of political coverage.

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Report highlights Iowa Medicaid horror stories; oversight bill languishes

Complaints to the Iowa Office of Ombudsman regarding privatized Medicaid increased by 157 percent last year, reflecting “systemic frustration” over cuts to health services for patients and unpaid bills for providers. Ombudsman Kristie Hirschman has “yet to be convinced” that the Department of Human Services is providing “adequate oversight” of the private insurance companies that control access to care and reimbursements, she wrote in a report released on April 2. The three outrageous examples she recounted resemble too many other tragic cases since Iowa shifted to a managed-care model for more than half a million Medicaid recipients.

Hirschman has assigned a full-time staffer to handle Medicaid-related complaints. The same issues come up again and again, more than a year after she, the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman, and the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa informed the DHS director about recurring problems with Medicaid managed-care organizations.

Although the ombudsman praised the legislature for “taking steps to correct some of the problems we and others have identified,” Senate Republican leaders haven’t brought up a Medicaid oversight bill that passed the Iowa House unanimously last month.

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Senate confirms Iowa DHS director with four votes to spare

The Iowa Senate confirmed Jerry Foxhoven as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services in an unusually close vote on March 21.

Most of Governor Kim Reynolds’ appointees have won unanimous confirmation, as has typically been the case in Iowa for many years. Foxhoven’s nomination was controversial because of how privatized Medicaid has been managed, along with several tragedies involving abused children. Senate Democrats asked to defer consideration on the DHS director last month “until we can fully assess his leadership.”

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Incumbents retiring in two battleground GOP-held Iowa Senate districts

During the last week before the filing deadline, Republican State Senators Mark Chelgren and Rick Bertrand announced that they will not seek re-election in 2018. Iowa Senate districts 41 and 7 were already the best Democratic pickup opportunities on a difficult midterm election map. Of the 29 Republicans now serving in the upper chamber, only four–Chelgren, Bertrand, Dan Dawson, and Tom Greene–hold seats where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans (barely in Dawson’s district). Dawson and Greene won’t be up for re-election until 2020.

Winning an open seat is usually easier than defeating a legislative incumbent, and Bertrand’s retirement clearly improves Democratic chances in Senate district 7.

But Republicans have likely increased their odds of holding Senate district 41 by swapping out Chelgren for Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

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