The Mental Health and Disability Services Redesign Fiscal Viability Committee is the official name of the interim committee that will oversee the ongoing redesign of the mental health and disability services system, and look for permanent, long-term solutions for funding the new regional system. This group of ten legislators will make recommendations on funding, including effects of the requirement that regions repay 80% of the savings they see because of the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.
MEET THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
CONTACT THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
These ten legislators are charged with overseeing the redesign of the mental health and disability services system, and are the people you should talk to about any concerns, suggestions or comments about the redesign. While talking to your legislator is also important, you should feel free to also contact these legislators. You can get their emails, addresses, and other contact information here.
FOLLOW INTERIM COMMITTEE ACTION:
Meetings of the interim committee are open to the public, and always include two public comment periods (one just before lunch, and one at the end of the meeting). The next meeting will be December 17 at 10 am in Room 103 at the State Capitol. You can see agendas, handouts, and other meeting materials here.
REPORT: OCTOBER MEETING ENDS WITH MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
The MH/DS Redesign Fiscal Viability Interim Committee has a lot to do, without much time to do it. The Committee met on October 22, but after six hours of discussion was left with more questions than answers. They have only one more meeting before the legislative session starts up again, and it's unlikely they'll be able to get all of the answers by then. Here is a quick recap of that meeting:
When it comes to Medicaid and Mental Health/Disability Services Redesign, the road to change is rarely smooth. While legislators say they hope to stay away from controversy this year, that may not be possible when it comes to these two issues that have serious budget issues ahead.
Budget decisions on both of these issues will ultimately be decided by thirteen key individuals:
If your legislator isn't listed above, don't worry. Tell your legislator to talk to these people and advocate on your behalf. Network with others, and use social media to find people in other legislative districts to advocate on your issue. Every legislator will have to vote on the budget - and starting with yours is an important first step.
The two biggest national news stories this month were the federal government shutdown and the problems with the online health insurance marketplace that was a key part of the Affordable Care Act. These online "marketplaces" were created to help Americans shop for and compare health insurance plans, including Iowa's Health and Wellness Plan. States had the option to create their own marketplaces, or piggy-back on the federal marketplace (which Iowa chose to do). It is that federal marketplace that is experiencing technical problems - states that chose to develop their own marketplaces are not experiencing these technical problems.
So what does this mean for Iowans? All Americans are required to have health insurance by March 31, 2014, or pay a penalty. Iowans have until March 31, 2014 to sign up for publicly funded health insurance coverage if they earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Individuals and families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for government-subsidized private health insurance plans, but they must purchase these plans from the marketplace by March 31, 2014 in order to receive the subsidies. People who purchase plans outside the marketplace, or outside the open enrollment period (October 1, 2013-March 31, 2014) will not be eligible for government subsidies. After this first year, there will be a shorter (three-month) annual enrollment period.
How do you apply for coverage? Iowans can look at their options now by logging onto the national Health Insurance Marketplace (www.HealthCare.gov). While Iowans could enroll starting October 1, coverage cannot begin until January 1, 2014. The marketplace (when functioning) will automatically tell you if you qualify for discounts or state programs based on income. You will then be able to choose a plan that's right for you through the online plan comparison tool. The US Department of Health and Human Services released A Quick-Start Guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace Application which you can find here. There are four ways to apply for coverage:
There are three key dates you'll want to mark on your calendar if you do not currently have health insurance (Medicaid counts as health insurance):
It is important to note that you can apply for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program at any time, and your current Medicaid coverage is not affected by the new law. Congress and the President are currently talking about extending this March 31 deadline because of the problems with the online enrollment system. However, under current law, if you do not have health insurance now, you have until March 31, 2014 to purchase it or face a penalty.
What is the status of the Iowa Health & Wellness Plan? The Iowa Legislature decided against expanding Medicaid to cover Iowans earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as allowed by federal law. Instead, they chose a hybrid plan that needed federal approval. As of October 29, Iowa has not received federal approval for its plan, but a decision should be coming soon. Iowa's plan covers people in four ways:
|Family Size||100% FPL||138% FPL||400% FPL|
The legislative rumor mill is alive and well, even though legislators are back in their home districts preparing for the 2014 legislative session to begin on Monday, January 13, 2014. While we obviously cannot report on every rumor we hear, there are a few things we've overheard that you might want to take note of:
In other non-rumor news, the Governor has a new Chief of Staff (Matt Hinch, who lobbyied last year for the Greater Des Moines Partnership and spent some time prior to that on the staffs of Congressman Latham and Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen) and House Democrats have a new Minority Leader (Representative Mark Smith of Marshalltown). That means there are two new faces at the budget negotiating table. There will be some changes in committee makeup, but we won't know those until the special elections are completed. Look for our updated "Guide to the 2014 Legislature" once those decisions are made (click here for more information about this Guide).
So what does all this mean to you - the advocate? It means three things.
Be realistic in your budget requests. You may want millions to clear the Medicaid waiver waiting lists, but the reality is that legislators will have to come up with at least $90 million this year just to keep Medicaid services at current levels.
You will need to temper your requests, and prioritize. While your request may be large, are there ways to break it down so you can start making progress toward your goal?
Legislative sessions held in election years are always tricky. Legislators are very aware of the votes they are taking, and how those votes may be used by their opponents. But the atmosphere at the State Capitol in 2014 may go beyond politics as usual as several legislators look to move into highter office. So many current and former legislators are running, you may need a scorecard to keep track. Here is a quick rundown:
CONGRESS (US SENATE): Iowa has two of the country's most senior members of the US Senate - US Senator Tom Harkin is the 7th longest serving member of the US Senate, and US Senator Charles Grassley is the 6th longest serving member. Senator Harkin announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in 2014, opening up a US Senate seat in Iowa for the first time since 1985. US Representative Bruce Braley (a Democrat) has announced he will run for US Senate (thus openning up his Congressional seat). State Senator Joni Ernst is among several Republicans who want the job as well; she has announced she too will run for US Senate. Former State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll (who is currently the Director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals) is also rumored to be exploring a run for the seat.
CONGRESS (US HOUSE): State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo and State Representative Pat Murphy of Dubuque (both Democrats) have announced they are running for Congress (Braley's seat). Among others running is former State Senator and current Iowa Utilities Board member Swati Dandekar of Cedar Rapids. State Representative Mark Lofgren of Muscatine has announced he will run against current US Representative Dave Loebsack. Also rumored to be considering a run for Loebsack's seat is Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the current head of the Iowa Department of Public Health who has run against Congressman Loebsack twice before. Former State Senator Staci Appel (a Democrat) is also running for Congress, against US Representative Tom Latham. No current or former state legislators have said they will run against Iowa's final US Representative Steve King (perhaps because there are very few Democratic legislators from that area of the state).
GOVERNOR: State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines and State Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids will face each other in a primary to become the Democratic candidate against current Governor Terry Branstad. Governor Branstad was Iowa's youngest Governor when first elected and would become the nation's longest-serving Governor if re-elected in 2014.
LEGISLATURE: Brian Meyer became the newest member of the Iowa House of Representatives when he won the special election to replace House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who resigned to take a job in the Iowa Attorney General's Office. Rep. Brian Meyer was McCarthy's chief of staff and was a member of the Des Moines City Council. He now represents the southeast side of Des Moines (House District 33). Rep. Meyers' win means the House power balance will remain at 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. But wait...
Earlier this month, State Senator Kent Sorenson announced his immediate resignation, in the midst of allegations of ethics violations. A special election for his Iowa Senate seat will be held on Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Current State Representative Julian Garrett (Republican) will face former State Representative Mark Davitt (Democrat) in this election to represent Senate District 13. Senate District 13 includes Madison County and Warren County, including the cities of Indianola, Bevington, Milo and Norwalk and the townships of Jackson, Otter, Squaw, Virginia, White Oak townships, Allen, Liberty, Lincoln, Palmyra, Richland, Union, White Breast; and parts of the townships of Linn, Belmont, Greenfield and Jefferson.
Currently, Democrats have the narrowest of controls in the Iowa Senate (26 Democrats, 24 Republicans). If the Republican (Garrett) wins the special election, that balance will remain unchanged in the Senate. However, because he is a current State Representative, a win for Garrett means yet another (third) special election to fill his House seat. That gives Democrats another chance to narrow the Republican majority in the House. If Rep. Garrett loses, he simply goes back to being a State Representative in the Iowa House, and Democrats in the Senate gain an extra (27th) vote with Davitt.
This game of political musical chairs has only begun. There are several current State Representatives that are rumored to be looking at a run for State Senate, but they have until mid-March to decide. Until that candidate filing deadline, legislators will be careful with their votes, and after that deadline, they'll want to get out on the campaign trail.
The Iowans with Disability in Action (ID Action) network does not take positions on issues, but we do encourage people to take action on the issues important to them. We know that many of you get frustrated when we tell you that we can't tell you what to say to your legislators. We can give you the tools to help with your message, give you tips on the delivery of that message, and help you know where and when to advocate. We just simply cannot tell you what to say.
So no matter what your issue is - transportation, employment, education, Medicaid funding, waiver waiting lists, or regional MH/DS services - now is the time to contact your legislators and talk to them about your concerns. Because it is a short session, those that start early will have a better chance for success. The most important thing to remember when talking to your elected officials, whether city council or state legislator or Governor - tell your story. Make sure you tell them how your issue affects your life. If your issue is waiver waiting lists, what does it mean to be on a waiting list? What would change in your life if you were able to get the services, and no longer wait for them? Your personal story may be the one that motivates a legislator to do something.
As Alan Moore, the author of V is for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, said "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." Remember your power - without you, there is no them.
You've probably heard a lot of people talking about how government can't seem to do anything right. Everywhere you turn - the television news to the company water cooler - people are upset about the federal government shutdown and problems with the online "exchange" that is to allow people to enroll in low-cost health insurance authorized under the Affordable Care Act. You may have even thought that you have the answers to make government work more efficiently for you, the taxpayer.
Every two years, the State Government Efficiency Review Committee meets to review state government operations and consider ways to modernize processes, eliminate unnecessary work, reduce costs and increase accountability. This is their year to meet. The committee is made up of 10 legislators, who want to hear your recommendations on making state government more efficient and responsive to Iowans’ needs.
A few things to remember:
To find out when the committee will meet next, you can watch the "Interim Schedule" on the legislative website (www.legis.iowa.gov) for upcoming meetings, or watch our "Latest News" box on our website (www.infonetiowa.org). All committee meetings are open to the public.
Last year, we provided our readers with two new resources - the Advocate's Guide to Mental Health and Disability Services Redesign and the 2013 Guide to the Iowa Legislature. Both guides were so popular, demand went way beyond our resources. This year, we have updated both guides and they are now available without charge to our readers.
The Advocate's Guide to Mental Health & Disability Services Redesign was our basic primer on the changes made to the mental health and disability services system; it was used with our 2012-2013 "Community Conversations" series. We have updated this Guide to include changes made in the 2013 legislative session, and challenges ahead in the 2014 session.
- Click here for the Updated Advocate's Guide to Mental Health & Disability Services Redesign.
- Click here for the original Advocate's Guide to Mental Health & Disability Services Redesign.
The Guide to the Iowa Legislature includes everything you need to know about the Iowa Legislature, legislators, the legislative process, committees, schedules, statewide elected officials and more. Since this Guide was published and mailed to our readers last year, there have been five special elections, changes in leadership, and several committee changes. We have updated this Guide for the 2014 session, and it will be printed after all the special elections are done (December).
- You can get a revised version of this updated 2014 Guide to the Iowa Legislature here. This was updated on 11/20/2013 to reflect results of State Senate special election - but will not be complete until another State Representative special election is over in January 2014.
If you get infoNET by mail: You will receive a final printed 2014 Guide to the Iowa Legislature when it is available.
If you get infoNET by email: You will not receive a printed copy of the 2014 Guide to the Iowa Legislature in the mail. If you would like a free printed copy, please email us at email@example.com. Please include your name, address, and phone number.