Crowd asks about waterworks, managed care
Local residents sounded off a variety of inquiries aimed at getting answers from three local legislators Saturday morning at the Fairfield Public Library during the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s final Legislative Forum of the season.
Questions emerged about the proposed bill to dismantle Des Moines Water Works, Managed Care Organizations and what kind of legacy the three legislators who were Rep. Curt Hanson (D-Fairfield), Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant), and Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), wanted to leave behind.
Diane Rosenberg, director of Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors told the Legislators that Des Moines Water Works had been a “champion” for clean water in the state, and she spoke about State Rep. Jarad Klein (R-Keota), and his new bill aimed at dismantling it and replacing it with a regional water authority under the control of local municipalities.
“Are you voting in support of dismantling?” Rosenberg asked.
Heaton said that Des Moines Waterworks needed to be represented by all of the communities that used its water.
“I think Jarad Klein wants to see a reorganization of Des Moines Water Works by the [local municipalities] that use it,” Heaton said. “I didn’t think we would have the opportunity to vote on that.”
Hanson, who said he was disappointed with the bills concerning Des Moines Water Works, said the Republicans who talk about local control were trying to take it away.
“I’m concerned that we’re over reaching,” Hanson said, later adding that he was not in favor of a dismantle.
An audience member asked the legislators’ opinions about the Managed Care Organizations and how they have affected Medicaid.
The audience member said that the MCOs appeared to be costing the state more money than the previously state managed Medicaid system.
“At what point do we say, ‘enough is enough?’” asked the man. “Why don’t we revisit the previous model? That worked pretty well.”
Chelgren said he did not support the MCO base, and that MCOs should be held accountable and penalized when they don’t pay out on time.
Heaton chimed in.
“I was concerned and surprised that Gov. [Terry Branstad] would put a plan like this in place without consulting the Legislature,” he said. “We were already having a problem that we had to get under control … Medicaid’s old model was pretty loose.”
Heaton said that previously, Medicaid had no control or oversight, and that Branstad thought the new plan was the way to go.
However, now, there are even more “bumps” in the road, with MCOs requesting prior authorizations, providers not getting compensated in a timely manner and other challenges.
“They are trying to get it under control,” Heaton said, later adding that he thought by now that most of the bumps would have been addressed, and that things would be smoother.
He said the issue would be addressed further after this Legislative session.
“We dove head first into waters of unknown depth,” Hanson said. “[Providers] haven’t been paid, hospitals are getting “claw back.”
Hanson said “claw back” is where hospitals have to give back a portion of their refund money.
“There are three hospitals in the area that are experiencing that right now,” he said. “We need more oversight and Legislative approval … we’re caught between a rock and a hard spot.”
An audience member asked the legislators how they wanted to be remembered.
“I want to advocate for those who are least able to advocate for themselves,” Hanson said.
Chelgren said he wanted to break the chain of so many people leaving Iowa to build lives somewhere else. He said he wanted to help make Iowa “a place where families stay.”
“We do have ‘sacred cows,’” Chelgren said, adding that one of those was corporate tax benefit. He said he wanted to decrease that, and to lower income tax in Iowa.
Heaton said he had worked in the fields of education and human services and he wanted to be a voice for those who cannot be heard.