Letters to the Editor

Privilege to represent District 82

Friends, For the last year and a half I have enjoyed the privilege of serving as your state representative for the communities of Jefferson, Davis and Van Buren counties. I have appreciated the challenge of assisting citizens with various state government needs.

I have made many deep and lasting friendships with many of you. Thank you, it has been an honor. I look forward to our paths crossing down the road.

Sincerely,

Phil Miller, DVM, State Representative House District 82

News from the Statehouse

Medicaid audit incomplete; still shows disappointing results

A new audit on Medicaid completed by the State Auditor found misleading claims from state officials and less than expected savings from Medicaid privatization.

While the auditor said the report was complete, many Iowans expressed concern that the audit was incomplete because it failed to account for non-payment or lower payments to providers and Iowans who were denied services. Lawmakers have heard from providers who are still not being paid, members that are getting their services severely cut, and some clinics have had to close their doors altogether. In fact, the most recent State Ombudsman report shows there has been a 157% increase in Medicaid-related problems reported to the agency in 2017. There was also a big raise the for-profit Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) recently received-to the tune of $102.9 million or a 7.5% increase-to take into account.

While the audit showed some savings to the state, the final number was far below the estimated savings of $234 million that the Reynolds Administration released last year. The audit also determined that the state officials did not establish a reliable method for calculating cost savings when they unilaterally decided to privatize Medicaid. So, it is almost impossible to calculate true savings, if there are any.

This audit process was only initiated because a Democratic lawmaker requested a review of the Medicaid program due to all the inconsistent data being released by DHS. Medicaid provides health care to 600,000 Iowans, including those in nursing homes. According to recent estimates, about 70% of Medicaid dollars are used for the elderly, severely disabled, and poor. Because this affects our most vulnerable population, it is imperative we understand the true impact privatization is having on our state.

Utility deregulation slashes LIHEAP funding

Now that the cold weather has arrived, many people are getting their furnaces tuned up for the winter months, and some are concerned with the rising cost of the heating bills. Beginning November 1, residents can apply to receive assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Households that qualify are protected from natural gas or electric service disconnection between November 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019.

To qualify for LIHEAP, the total household income must be at or below 175% of the federal poverty level. Persons interested in applying should contact the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the Department of Human Services at 515-281-0859 or their local community action agency, which can be found online at https://humanrights.iowa.gov/dcaa/where-apply.

According to the Iowa Department of Human Rights, 1,200 homes were weatherized and 82,932 Iowa households, 192,919 individuals, received LIHEAP heating assistance benefits between 2017 and 2018 winter months. The program received additional $4.9 million from the Department of Energy and $6 million in aid from Iowa Investor-Owned Utility companies.

Last session, Iowa Republicans enacted legislation to deregulate Iowa investor-owned utilities. Due to those changes, it is estimated that LIHEAP will receive a 50% decrease in aid from utility companies this year.