Education and Health Reform Remain Topics For Eggs And Issues
Oskaloosa, Iowa – With four sessions down, only two more sessions of Eggs and Issues remain for the 2013 legislative session.
Once again, two topics worked their way to the front of discussion- education and health care.
Oskaloosa School Board Member Tom Richardson asked the legislators about their time frame on completing the education bill, so that they, as a school board, could better prepare to have their budgets completed.
He also asked for some clarification as to where allowable growth might end up. Allowable growth is part of how a school plans its budget. The Senate passed a bill that authorized 4% allowable growth, while the house passed a bill that included 2% allowable growth, but included money up front that wasn’t part of the allowable growth formula.
“There is plenty of emphasis on getting this done in a timely manner,” Rep. Guy Vander Linden told Richardson.
“As you point out, there is a considerable difference between the initial senate version and the initial house version. I don’t know where that’s going to go, I don’t know how you predict that. If I was in your position, I’d plan on two, cause that’s the worst case in my mind. Nobody’s going to go lower than two,” explained Vander Linden.
Vander Linden said that education funding is the first priority. “All that other stuff goes to the end of the line after education. If we do 4% for education this year, we’re going to have a very difficult time funding all those other things that people think are absolutely necessary.”
The expansion of Medicaid was also brought up by local resident John Uchtman.
Uchtman expressed his concerns about IowaCare, which currently helps to cover Iowa residents, with limited services, that don’t qualify for Medicaid. “Horrible program,” Uchtman said. “Better than nothing.”
Nearly a dozen Republican governors haven’t said if their states will take part in the Medicaid expansion, while others, like Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad (R), have rejected the idea of expanding Medicaid – citing the potential cost to the Iowa taxpayer, saying in his weekly press conference that he doesn’t trust the federal government to keep its financial commitments.
Over this past weekend, at the National Governors’ Conference, Branstad told the Quad City Times about the decision not to take part in Medicaid expansion. “I am very comfortable that we have made the right decision and we are going to continue to pursue this waiver and we’re working with them on a partnership exchange and that’s what I told Secretary Sebelius.”
At Eggs and Issues, Uchtman said, “It seems like a no brainer here,” in regard to Iowa taking part in Medicaid expansion. “If this is such a great program, the IowaCare program, I would suggest that the Iowa Legislature… go on this program also and give up their fully funded government healthcare program.”
Senator Rozenboom thanked John for the question. “It’s a significant question. I’ve had, I would guess, a couple of hundred emails on this. All but two have been supportive of Iowa going with the Medicaid expansion. They all say the same thing, that the federal government will pay 100% of the cost for the first 3 years and then there will be a descending scale down to where they’ll eventually pay 90%.”
“How can we lose?” Rozenboom continued. “That’s the story.”
Rozenboom said that he has concerns that the federal government won’t continue to fund the program, leaving the state to pick up the tab.
Rozenboom used the impending sequestration as an example. “That is [sequestration] going to begin March 1, which is a simple matter of Washington not getting their act together. Making a lot of promises they can’t keep and now we’re seeing the fallout from that.”
Rozenboom said that it would be “a great deal… if we can trust the federal government.”
“It’s not a no-brainer,” Vander Linden said.
Vander Linden shared that he has received emails as well concerning the expansion of Medicaid. “They all come from people in the health care industry. The health care industry signed up and supported Obamacare, and one of the reasons they did was this whole thing about Medicaid expansion. It looked to them like there was going to be a whole new customer base that was going to be paid for by the federal government. It’s the money, it’s always the money. And here’s the downside to it- when the federal government fails to keep their promises about this, which they will eventually because they can’t afford it, the state is going to get stuck with the bill, and the bill is half a billion dollars. I don’t trust ‘em.”