Local legislators talk health care

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


With less than a month left in Iowa?s legislative session, there are still plenty of things Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) wants to see done before he retires from public service. Specifically in the realm of health care.

Heaton and Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant) met with constituents Saturday, March 24, during the third of four legislative breakfasts sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance?s Government Affair?s Committee to discuss Iowa?s health care.

Heaton, who is serving his 24th year in the legislature, announced earlier this year that he will not be running for re-election in 2018.

Before Heaton leaves office he would like to see the state?s Medicaid managed care system working better. One way is having oversight and accountability for the MCOs. ?We have a bill that talked about DHS (Department of Human Services) effencies,? said Heaton of House File 2462, which passed the House unanimously earlier this month, but still hasn?t been debated by the Senate.

Heaton and his colleagues added an amendment to the bill that would provide oversight and accountability ?into the MCOs relationships with the providers and the clients.?

The amendments requires MCOs to pay providers in a timely manner. One of the main issues providers have with the MCOs is the delay or lack of reimbursement for care provided. The amendment also states the MCO must provide justification for denying a claim. ?Lots of time there?s a denial, but not reason for it,? said Heaton.

The bill also looks to streamline the prior authorization process so a patient?s care is not delayed due to paperwork and MCOs would pay for the first five days of court-ordered treatment for substance abuse or mental illness.

?According to my Speaker of the House we?re not going to go home until we get this bill on the governor?s desk,? said Heaton.

Heaton and Taylor also discussed House File 2456, which was passed and signed by the governor. ?What we did was come up with the brand-new idea of regional mental health care,? Taylor said tongue-and-cheek, indicating Iowa had that before Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda?s Mental Health Institutes (MHI) were closed.

The bill would establish regional, short-term care facilities for mentally ill patients. Heaton said the facilities would have at least 16 beds. Although Taylor said he was concerned about funding being provided to actually implement the initiative, Heaton said he had $876,000 in his Health and Human Services budget for fiscal year 2019 and $6 million for fiscal year 2020 for the project.

In regards to mental health and Mt. Pleasant?s MHI, Heaton said the state is currently having issues finding facilities to take care of sexual predators who are set to be released from prison, but are in need of full-scale care facilities, such as nursing homes. Many nursing homes within the state refuse to take on the individuals due to the risk. Heaton said he would encourage the state to look at Mt. Pleasant?s former MHI. Taylor agreed saying Mt. Pleasant?s facility is large enough and could provide the care needed. The two legislators disagreed if they believed it should be a state or privately ran facility, but Heaton reminded the constituents these discussions were still in the ?very early stages.?

During the breakfast, the legislators also discussed House File 2285, which would require the DHS to apply for supplemental funding for ambulance services through the Medicaid program. Heaton said the bill would allow the department to change their Medicaid plan and ask the Federal Government to recognize an intergovernmental transfer that will be able to levy additional dollars for ambulance services.

Henry County Health Center CEO Rob Gardner said ambulance services cost on average between $1,100 to $2,700, but is only reimbursed about $200-$400 from Medicaid. Gardner added that programs, such as the one outlined in the bill, have already passed in several other states.

The final legislative breakfast will be held on Saturday, April 28, at 8:30 a.m., in the International Room at Iowa Wesleyan?s Chadwick Library.