Iowa Privatized Medicaid: It Has Been A Disaster. Here’s Why.

By Simon Davis-Cohen for Tarbell.org

This is a reprint from Tarbell.org, a news website pioneering journalism that reveals who runs America and empowers readers with solutions. Read this on Tarbell.org.

If you have any feedback on this piece, please contact Tarbell’s engagement editor, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, at danielle@tarbell.org.

In 2016, Iowa privatized Medicaid under then-Governor Terry Branstad. He was a founding member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). “Obamacare” is often attacked by the David and Charles Koch-backed group that opposes government action in health care or the economy.

Branstad claimed outsourcing Medicaid would save the state and taxpayers money. However, Iowa has not been able to provide any data that shows privatization saved the state money. In fact, privatization is now costing Iowa money. (Branstad resigned the governorship in 2017 to become the U.S. Ambassador to China.)

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IA-04: Steve King doesn't seem worried--or does he?

U.S. Representative Steve King’s clout has taken big hits lately. He won his ninth term in Congress by only a 3.3 percent margin in Iowa’s most conservative district (partisan voter index of R+11). Once-staunch allies like Governor Kim Reynolds sought to distance themselves from his toxic racism. The leader of his caucus stripped him of all House committee assignments.

Three other Republicans announced plans to seek the 2020 nomination in the fourth district, and campaign finance reports filed on April 15 confirmed that many heavy hitters are backing King’s best-known challenger, State Senator Randy Feenstra.

The incumbent’s recent fundraising and campaign spending would suggest that he’s not concerned about his re-election prospects.

But in other ways, King is working diligently to maintain support among the conservatives he needs to continue his political career. Fortunately for him, taxpayers are bankrolling much of that outreach.

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Reynolds takes solid step toward expanding voting rights

Since Governor Terry Branstad signed an order in January 2011 to end automatic restoration of voting rights for Iowans who have completed felony sentences, only 328 affected people have regained their franchise: 206 through the end of Branstad’s tenure, and 122 since Governor Kim Reynolds became the state’s leader in May 2017. Yet an estimated 52,000 Iowans are ineligible to vote because of a criminal record.

A constitutional amendment moving through the state legislature would end the lifetime ban for most Iowans with felony convictions but could not take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

Today Reynolds announced several steps aimed at increasing the number of Iowans who could participate in the electoral process sooner than that.

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How to create activist judges

September Lau and Kimberly Graham make the case against a Republican effort to pack Iowa courts with conservatives. -promoted by Laura Belin

Ever since the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, conservative groups and legislators have attempted to reign in what they describe as an “activist” court. Never mind that that opinion, Varnum v. Brien, was a deliberate and thoughtful walk through equal protection analysis. Conservatives simply didn’t like the decision because it wasn’t the result they wanted.

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IA-04: Don't bet on Steve King losing his 2020 primary (updated)

U.S. Representative Steve King kicks off a series of public meetings this weekend with an event in O’Brien County. He hasn’t held this kind of town hall in a long time. The newfound commitment to showing up for constituents indicates that King was shaken up by his narrow victory over J.D. Scholten in November. He also faces growing discontent in Republican circles, both in Iowa (where he faces multiple primary challengers) and in Washington, D.C. (where he lost his House committee assignments).

Some commentators have speculated that residents of the fourth Congressional district are ready to move on to a representative with less baggage. For my money, the only way King won’t be the 2020 nominee is if GOP insiders somehow convince him not to seek a tenth term.

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Don't make more than 52,000 Iowans wait until 2023 to vote

Governor Kim Reynolds asked Iowa lawmakers today to start the process of amending the state constitution to remove the lifetime ban on voting by those who have committed “infamous crimes,” which under current law are defined as all felony offenses.

A constitutional amendment would be the best long-term fix for an unfair system that disproportionately affects racial minorities and those lacking the funds to navigate the restoration process. So the Iowa House and Senate should certainly heed the governor’s call. But it’s difficult to get a constitutional amendment through both chambers of the legislature, and the soonest an amendment could be enacted would be November 2022.

Reynolds and state lawmakers can and should take immediate steps to allow tens of thousands of Iowans to participate in this year’s local elections, the 2020 caucuses, and the primary and general elections of 2020 and 2022.

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