Bergan Report

By: News Release
Apr 5th, 2019

April 4th, 2019 Greetings from the State House This week was the second funnel deadline which requires Senate bills to get approval from at least one House committee. If a bill fails to pass committee, it is ineligible for the rest of session. Bills dealing with spending and taxes are not subject to the funnel and remain alive. The Legislature did a good job this year of working ahead to ensure that priority legislation wasn’t left until the last minute. With the number of bills significantly reduced, attention will now turn to crafting a state budget plan and tax issues. State Budget Plan Begins to Move The budget process is in full swing at the Statehouse with budget bills beginning to move this week. On Thursday, the House passed the Education budget which funds community colleges, Regent universities, job training programs, and other priorities that: • Keep higher education affordable for Iowa students • Address the skilled worker shortage and train Iowans for 21st century careers • Educate teachers to recognize the signs of mental health issues in students • Train new health care providers to practice in rural Iowa Some specific highlights of the House Education budget include: • $14.8 million in new funding for Future Ready Iowa and Last Dollar Scholarships to train 7,500 workers for the careers of tomorrow • $16 million funding increase for Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI to keep tuition affordable for Iowa students • $7 million funding increase for community colleges and job training programs that support workers and employers • $3 million in new funding for mental health awareness training to help K-12 teachers identify students with mental health problems • $3 million for All Iowa Opportunity Scholarships to help 635 low-income Iowans attend college • $1.4 million for a rural primary care loan program to help put new doctors in rural areas that need health care providers The Legislature already provided K-12 schools with a $90 million funding increase at the beginning of session. This funding package increased general support while also targeting dollars to rural schools with high transportation costs and reduced the long-standing per pupil inequity in the funding formula. Additional budgets dealing with health care, public safety, courts, and other state departments have also begun to move or will move shortly. The Health and Human Services sub-committee approved their budget on Wednesday. The Appropriations committee considered the budget on Thursday. Moving Forward with Managed Care Last week, Governor Reynolds announced that negotiations between the state and UnitedHealthcare had broken down and the MCO would be leaving the Medicaid program. In short, UnitedHealthcare wanted to be paid more without any accountability to Medicaid members and providers. This includes accountability metrics that ensure they are paying providers and getting patients the care that they need. Governor Reynolds made the right decision in refusing to be held hostage by UnitedHealthcare. The Governor’s office and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are actively working on a transition plan with Amerigroup and Iowa Total Care to minimize disruption of services for members. UnitedHealthcare members should be watching their mail for notice and more information on the transition. DHS also plans to reach out directly to members over the phone to ensure no one falls through the cracks. While this situation does present a challenge, managed care continues to be the right choice for the future of Iowa’s Medicaid program. Going back to the old Medicaid system is not possible. The old system was completely unsustainable, unaccountable, and the growth of the program threatened the state’s ability to fund key priorities like K-12 schools, public safety, and other core functions of government. In order to ensure that MCOs meet the needs of vulnerable Iowans and providers, the Legislature passed some of the strongest oversight measures for MCOs in the entire country last session. These changes were intended to hold MCOs accountable to both Medicaid members and providers, ensuring that patients get the care they need and providers are paid in a timely manner. At the beginning of session, most people felt that the Medicaid program had improved significantly and turned a corner for the better. This feeling was shared among Republicans and Democrats alike. House Republicans will continue to monitor the Medicaid program to ensure that it remains successful and meets the needs of the people it serves. I enjoyed talking with the eighth grade students from Allamakee Community Schools who visited the Capitol on Thursday. Hannah Breckbill and Dalton Brown visited on Wednesday, advocating for small farmers and opportunities for young farmers in Iowa. I appreciate getting an email in advance to a visit so I can work out a time to meet. Very truly yours, Representative Michael Bergan