Another Medicaid math puzzler: Who has the contracts?

petersenThe Iowa Hospital Association on Monday questioned whether Iowa has reached agreements with heath care providers on more than 12,000 contracts to provide Medicaid services through for-profit management companies.

Federal officials will not allow Iowa to move forward with Gov. Terry Branstad’s privatization plan on Jan. 1 unless the state has an adequate number of health care professionals who agree to accept Medicaid. At least 560,000 poor or disabled Iowans depend on the $4.2 billion annual program for their health care.

The hospital association, which represents more than 100 Iowa hospitals, claimed Monday it has found discrepancies between the list of health care providers the Iowa Department of Human Services released last week and the businesses that have actually signed contracts.


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We have a lot to be thankful for this week.

This Wednesday, a group of clergy will hold a press conference at 10:30 am on the steps of St. Mary’s church in Iowa City. They will release a statement in support of the minumum wage increase,  written by Father Rudy and signed by 32 clergy in the county. Come show your support!
Minimum Wage Press Conference by Clergy
This Wednesday, November 25
10:30 am
St. Mary’s Church
228 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City
Please join us for this important event.
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Labor History

November 25
Some 10,000 New Orleans workers, Black and White, participate in a solidarity parade of unions comprising the Central Trades and Labor Assembly. The parade was so successful it was repeated the following two years – 1883

Teachers strike in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers—and principals—led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated – 1946
(In Reviving the Strike: How Working People can Regain Power and Transform America, author Joe Burns says if the American labor movement is to rise again it will not be as a result of electing Democrats, the passage of legislation, or improved methods of union organizing. Rather, workers will need to rediscover the power of the strike. Not the ineffectual strike of today, where employees meekly sit on picket lines waiting for scabs to take their jobs, but the type of strike capable of grinding industries to a halt—the kind employed up until the 1960s.)

Nearly 1,550 typesetters begin what is to become a victorious 22-month strike against Chicago newspapers – 1947

George Meany becomes president of the American Federation of Labor following the death four days earlier of William Green – 1952

Canadian postal workers, protesting a Post Office decision to offer discounts to businesses but not individuals, announce that for one week they will unilaterally reduce postage costs by about two-thirds.  Declared the Canadian Union of Postal Workers: “(M)embers of the general public, not businesses, can mail letters with 10 cents postage and postal workers will process them without taxing them for insufficient postage” – 1983

Union Communication Services

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Presentation of ‘Turkey of the Year’ award to Senator Chuck Grassley

obstruction aheadOn Wednesday, November 25th, our friends at the Why Courts Matter Iowa Coalition will be presenting Senator Grassley with their “Turkey of the Year” Award for his historic obstruction of judicial nominees in his role as chair of the US Senate Judiciary committee. Senator Grassley’s obstruction on judicial nominations makes it more difficult for Americans to exercise their rights in court in a timely manner.

Presentation of ‘Turkey of the Year’ award to Senator Chuck Grassley
Wednesday, November 25th
12:00 PM
The Office of Senator Chuck Grassley
210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, Iowa 

Why Courts Matter Iowa has adopted Pepper, a turkey from Sanctuary Farms, in Senator Grassley’s name, in order to ‘pardon’ it prior to Thanksgiving. The coalition will present the Senator with the certificate of adoption as well as a picture of Pepper.

Hope you can make it!

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This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Medicaid, the health care safety net that protects us all.

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Many Medicaid dollars provide care to severely disabled people.  Without Medicaid, those costs would bankrupt almost any family in Iowa. Simply put, the Medicaid safety net protects us all, regardless of our income. For example, I have a friend from … Continue reading

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Five Questions Governor Branstad Needs to Answer Before Medicaid Privatization







Statement by Senator Joe Bolkcom, member of the Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee

1)     Governor Branstad, you have consistently claimed that using private companies to manage Medicaid services will save money and improve care. Do you have any evidence to support your claims?  Are you aware that your claims are not supported by the most comprehensive study of Medicaid managed care.  The 2012 study by the respected Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that:


“There is little evidence of national savings from Medicaid managed care, but a few states have had some success. The states that did realize cost savings were more likely to be states with relatively high reimbursement rates under fee-for-service. *

“Medicaid managed care has had mixed success in improving access to care. There is some evidence of increased likelihood of a usual source of care and reduced emergency department visits, but pregnant women were generally no better off under managed care then in fee-for-service.

“Quality of care in Medicaid managed care has not been well studied, making it difficult to compare quality in fee-for-service to managed care. This is surprising given that states require performance measures for all managed care plans.”


2)     Governor Branstad, are you aware that the state of Iowa’s per person cost for Medicaid care has stayed essentially the same for the last 10 years?  Do you realize that overall increase in Iowa’s Medicaid budget is due to:

  1. A) An increased number of Iowans in the program thanks to Medicaid expansion; and,
  2. B) A cut in the percentage of costs picked up by the federal government due to Iowa’s comparative stronger economy when compared to other states?


3)     Governor Branstad, if federal officials decide to delay or reject your effort to privatize Medicaid in Iowa, will you abandon drop your push to cut annual state revenue by tens of millions of dollars by redefining the sales tax on consumable supplies without Legislative approval? 

4)     Governor Branstad, Iowa’s health care industry is a major employer which provides high quality services at relatively low cost compared to other states. Why aren’t you working with Iowa’s community health care providers instead of blaming them for your administration’s failures?



5)     Governor Branstad, has any Republican legislator approached you and suggested that you delay this transition until your administration is better organized and the alleged benefits can be proven?


* Note: Iowa’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are relatively low.

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Labor Continues Fight for Justice for all Immigrant Working Families

A year after the executive action on immigration, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:   Today should have been a day of celebration for working families across the nation. Instead, thanks to partisan legal obstructionism of the DAPA … Continue reading

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Iowa JobWatch: Concerns shadow uptick in jobs

Jobless Rate Improves to 3.5 Percent in October IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate showed slight improvements in October according to new data released today by Iowa Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor … Continue reading

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Here is your November 20th, 2015 Friday Alert:

Democratic Debate Includes Prescription Drug Focus The Democratic Presidential debate on Saturday night included questions about addressing the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States. Hillary Clinton said that she supports capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $250 … Continue reading

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Editorial: Follow Johnson County on minimum wage

raise the wage iowaSometimes you go it alone to do the right thing. That’s what officials in Johnson County did this year when they raised the minimum wage there. While Iowa’s pay floor remains at a pitiful $7.25 per hour, on Nov. 1 workers in Iowa City and surrounding areas began earning at least $8.20 per hour. Wages will increase to $9.15 on May 1 and $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Though city councils can pass ordinances to opt out, that may not be popular with voters. When supervisors held the final vote on the ordinance, which passed unanimously, cheers filled the room. Johnson County has one of the highest costs of living in Iowa and individuals are unable to sustain themselves due to low wages, notes the ordinance.

“We have almost 20,000 people who are food insecure — don’t know where their next meal is coming from. County government does a lot of human services, and we are providing more services, frankly, than we can afford to provide. As you look around and you figure out — why are all of these people poor, they seem to be working, we just feel like some of the employers have to step up and pay a little bit higher wage,” said Johnson County supervisor Rod Sullivan.


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Labor History

November 23 History’s first recorded (on papyrus) strike, by Egyptians working on public works projects for King Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings. They were protesting having gone 20 days without pay—portions of grain—and put down their tools. … Continue reading

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Branstad refuses to acknowledge Medicaid facts

bolcumYou, me, and almost every other Iowan know at least one person who depends on Medicaid. After all, nearly 600,000, or one out of six Iowans, receive care from our state’s 42,000 community Medicaid providers.

That’s why there is so much opposition to the profoundly premature rush to privatize Medicaid by Jan. 1. There are good reasons to think that Medicaid privatization threatens both critical health care services for vulnerable Iowans and the health providers that deliver them.


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Infrastructure Week 2016 to be held nationwide May 16-23, 2016

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Infrastructure Week 2016 to be held nationwide May 16-23, 2016   Washington, D.C. — November 20, 2015 — Today, the nation’s largest organizations representing American business, labor, and policy announced the fourth annual Infrastructure Week, to be held the week … Continue reading

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I took an action on Action Network called “Stop the Attacks on Working People.”

We’ve had enough! It’s time to stop attacking working people, including teachers, nurses and other public service workers who work to make our communities better.

Corporate CEOs and the wealthy special interests cannot stop working people from banding together and forming unions to make our lives better.

Can you join me and take action? Click here:


enough is enough

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Governor’s own numbers show that Iowans’ access to health at risk due to low participation in Medicaid privatization plan

Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcum

Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcum

A statement by State Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, member of the Health Policy Oversight Committee, in response to today’s Medicaid privatization report by Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds.

“It’s unbelievable that Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds would claim that it’s good news for Iowans that fewer than one-third of Iowa’s Medicaid providers have signed up for their proposed Medicaid privatization program.

“It is actually bad news because the effect of such low participation by health care providers would be to prevent hundreds of thousands of Iowans from accessing affordable, quality health care. This is additional evidence in support of delaying implementation of Medicaid privatization by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration.”

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Branstad touts Medicaid contracts, but few hospitals signed

medicare for allGov. Terry Branstad, who is pushing to shift management of the state’s Medicaid program to private companies on Jan. 1, said Thursday that the firms have signed more than 12,000 contracts with pharmacies, doctors and other health care providers.

But most Iowa hospitals and physicians have not signed contracts to participate in the new system, according to the Department of Human Services. The issue is important, because the managed-care companies are supposed to show they have broad networks of health care providers willing to care for the new plans’ members.

Branstad, a Republican who is seeking federal approval of the shift, touted the managed-care companies’ progress in signing up health care providers. He said 99 percent of pharmacies that serve the current Medicaid program are signed up with at least one managed-care company, and hundreds of long-term care services are on board.


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Family Involvement Key to a Child’s Education

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – This is American Education Week, to honor all the people it takes to provide a quality education to students. Iowa State Education Association president Tammy Wawro of Cedar Rapids said it’s important to recognize the critical … Continue reading

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Labor History

November 21 Six miners striking for better working conditions under the IWW banner are killed and many wounded in the Columbine Massacre at Lafayette, Colo. Out of this struggle Colorado coal miners gained lasting union contracts – 1927 The 1,700-mile … Continue reading

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Medicaid meeting set for Dec. 7 at state capitol

IDD-11-05-15If you’re interested in what state lawmakers have to say about the planned Jan. 1 statewide Medicaid transition to managed care, mark Dec. 7 on your calendar.

That’s the date of the Iowa State Senate’s Health Policy Oversight Committee is set to meet in the State Supreme Court chamber of the state capitol. The 10 a.m. meeting will allow lawmakers to address concerns about the upcoming transition, and should allow two Democratic senators to discuss this week’s trip to Washington, D.C., where they discussed concerns about the planned changes with Iowa Medicaid.

Senate President Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque), along with Oversight Committee members Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City) and Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) met with representatives of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C., and held a conference call with the media Wednesday morning.


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Let’s set the facts straight on TPP

The details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, were recently released to the public, and we’ve got some serious issues with it. In short, it leaves U.S. workers in the lurch. Politicians and the media have been sounding off on … Continue reading

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