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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

July 22, 2019

Des Moines Register. July 19, 2019

Reynolds administration throws more money at broken privatized Medicaid experiment

Elections have consequences. Among the consequences of electing a governor with an allegiance to privatized Medicaid: an additional $386 million in taxpayer money down the drain.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration has agreed to give an 8.6 percent raise this fiscal year to Amerigroup and Iowa Total Care, the two for-profit insurers contracted with the state to manage the $5 billion health insurance program for poor and disabled people. Iowa Total Care has been insuring Iowans for less than three weeks.

It would be a different matter if the additional money were going directly to pay for services needed by vulnerable Iowans. But with privatization, a big chunk of it goes to insurers’ profit sheets.

Here’s what the 2016 privatization of Medicaid, led by former Gov. Terry Branstad and continued by Reynolds, has looked like: Vulnerable Iowans have lost care. One disabled man died after being forced from his home to an out-of-state facility. Health providers report not being paid by insurers. State workers scramble to address problems. Taxpayers, who were told privatization was supposed to save money, watch as the state for the second consecutive year agrees in secret negotiations to give insurers increases topping 8 percent.

Last year’s boost of $344 million meant legislators had to come up with more money in the middle of the budget year.

The governor’s solution: Throw more money at the mess. Reynolds and Medicaid director Mike Randol do not explain where the state is going to come up with its share — $115 million — to cover the latest pay raise to the for-profit companies. They attempt to put a happy face on all bad news related to privatization.

Reynolds says the state now knows what relying on for-profit insurers costs. “We’re not projecting or guessing. We have actual data we can base this off of,” she said.

Really? Where is that data? Explain how much privatization is going to cost going forward. If her administration has solid information, why did Randol decline to say whether the state will fork over more money next year?

Privatization is a choice. Branstad chose to put the state on this path without approval from Iowa lawmakers. Reynolds can choose to return Medicaid management to the state, which does not seek to turn a profit or please shareholders or pay huge CEO salaries.

Medicaid was operated by the state for five decades. It had low administrative costs, transparency and made timely payments to providers.

Now Iowa has high administrative costs, secret payment negotiations and struggling health providers.

Reynolds chooses to allow the state to be held hostage by private insurers who repeatedly demand more money, receive it and still jump ship. UnitedHealthcare and AmeriHealth both abruptly departed within the past two years, leaving vulnerable Iowans to figure out their care with a new provider. The two current insurers can pull out at any point.

Then what? The state will beg another for-profit company to manage a health insurance program that should be managed by government.

Under privatization, hundreds of millions of precious public health dollars go to insurance company “administration” instead of paying for knee replacements, heart surgery, medications, mental health counseling and other actual health care for Iowans. Reynolds can choose not to do that. She can choose not to give private insurers another pay raise.

And she can choose to be a Republican who really stands up to misspending and wasting taxpayer money. Iowa’s GOP leaders refuse to adequately fund everything from education to the environment, yet they say nothing when this administration shovels more money to for-profit insurers.

Meanwhile, Iowans are simply supposed to believe privatization is saving money and improving health, even though there is no evidence of either. Three years into this experiment, we are apparently supposed to shut up, pay up again, smile and nod.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. July 19, 2019

Farm to School Program deserves support

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program makes grants available to school districts and other organizations to support projects that connect American young people with farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers in their communities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program makes grants available to school districts and other organizations to support projects that connect American young people with farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers in their communities.

According to the USDA, this grant funding is designed in part to “increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers.” Beyond that, the endeavor supports an array of collaborative learning opportunities. These undertakings include student field trips to local farms, planting and maintaining school gardens and conducting taste tests of nutritious foods.

“Everybody wins with Farm to School. USDA is proud to help the next generation better understand where its food comes from, while strengthening local economies,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, who just announced that in 2019, funds available for Food to School grants have reached a record high.

Some federal programs accomplish very little. This one, however, has been immensely successful. Here is some of what had been achieved as of the most recent Farm to School Census:

. $789 million had been invested in local communities.

. 17,089 salad bars offering healthy eating options had been created.

. More than 7,000 school gardens have been planted.

According to the most recent data collected by the USDA, 42% of American school districts surveyed take part in Farm to School activities. That’s an impressive 5,254 districts and 42,587 schools.

Here in Iowa, the program is also thriving. Twenty-nine percent of Hawkeye State school districts are already undertaking Farm to School Program activities. That’s 98 districts with 438 schools and 174,145 students. And that is just a start. An additional 17% of districts that participated in the census indicated that they plan to start Farm to School projects. Many school districts in our readership area have already done so.

The Messenger congratulates the USDA on the success of this superb program. We urge community leaders to give strong support to local schools as they undertake Farm to School Program activities.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald . July 21, 2019

GDDC helps community shoot for moon

This past week, Americans have been reflecting on the excitement and unity the country felt 50 years ago when the Apollo 11 astronauts made their historic space mission. A feeling of achievement permeated communities across the country. Amid the strife of war and civil unrest, perhaps brighter days were ahead.

A little more than a decade after the moon landing, however, the feeling of prosperity in Dubuque had begun to wane. By the dawn of 1982, Dubuque hit the highest unemployment rate in the country at 23%.

Some 37 years later, Dubuque again has an unemployment rate in the national spotlight. This time, though, it’s the rare air of historic low unemployment. At 1.9%, Dubuque’s jobless rate is the fifth-lowest among metropolitan areas in the U.S.

That incredible turnaround helps tell the story highlighted last week at Greater Dubuque Development Corp.’s annual meeting. And GDDC is a good part of the fuel that fires the community’s economic engine.

There is plenty to brag about in Dubuque these days.

Just last week, headlines in the TH revealed more economic wins:

Duluth Trading Co. announced it will open a 102,000-square-foot distribution center in Dubuque Industrial Center West. The company intends to hire 12 full-time employees and at least 200 seasonal, part-time employees.

Crown Holdings, a Fortune 500 manufacturer, plans to lease a 111,000-square-foot space in Dubuque Industrial Center West next spring and bring more than 40 high-paying jobs to the community.

As GDDC President and CEO Rick Dickinson is quick to point out, though, it’s the continued job creation by existing local businesses that really keeps the economy growing.

Cottingham & Butler announced last week it will expand its local presence by opening an office in Dyersville, Iowa, bringing more than 25 jobs to the city within a year.

Earlier this year, Dupaco Community Credit Union announced plans to invest $37 million to transform the “Voices building” in the Millwork District into a new operations center.

Construction is underway on Medline Industries Inc.’s new

$20 million facility, which will add more than 100 jobs.

Still, when it comes to job creation, low unemployment comes with a downside: a workforce shortage.

That’s why GDDC continues to work hard on recruitment initiatives. In April, GDDC launched its “Big Life, Small City” campaign, a multi-faceted marketing effort that aims to recruit young professionals to the area.

Clearly, this community recognizes the value of GDDC and supports its mission. Dickinson noted the group has well over $11 million (on a goal of $10 million) pledged for its 2022 capital campaign.

Dubuque-area leaders know well the collaboration it takes to continue to grow the local economy. It has been the partnership between local government, private industry and GDDC that has built a prosperous economic universe. May it continue to thrive.

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