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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 20, 2017

Health Insurance for 72,000 Iowans in jeopardy

By Curt Hanson | May 11, 2017

Nearly 72,000 Iowans who purchased insurance through the federal Marketplace could lose the insurance coverage they currently have next year.

Citing federal uncertainty and high costs, two insurance carriers in Iowa, Aetna and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, announced they would no longer offer individual plans as part of the Marketplace in Iowa. In addition, the remaining provider, Medica announced they are more than likely to cease operations in Iowa but a final decision will be made next month.

It is unclear at this point what other options would be available for Iowans if no insurance is available through the Marketplace.


New voting laws

Voters in Iowa will have more hurdles and less time to vote after Gov. Branstad signed into law changes to Iowa’s election law. The new law will shorten the voting window and require a photo ID to vote. The legislation was pushed through despite opposition from both local election officials and voting rights advocates due to the new regulations and challenges voters will face.

The effects of the proposal could make it harder for over 200,000 Iowans who don’t currently have the required documents to vote. The impact of the legislation will especially hurt the elderly, students, disabled, minorities, and low-income Iowans who disproportionately lack the needed requirements. The elimination of 11 early voting days will give communities less time to have satellite voting locations throughout their area, which includes most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties, in the state Legislature.

Approximately 34,000 Iowans voted in the first 11 days of early voting last year.


During debate, House Democrats worked to improve the bill and make it easier for Iowans to vote by expanding the number of IDs accepted and keeping the early voting timeline in place.


The negative effects will certainly lead to the challenging of the new regulations in court to determine if the new law is constitutional.


Students to Pay Higher Tuition Next Fall


After Republican lawmakers cut over $24 million this session from Iowa’s three state universities, students will be forced to pay higher tuition next fall. The Iowa Board of Regents approved a $358 increase in undergraduate tuition for Iowa students next year.


The Board originally increased 2017-2018 tuition rates by 2-3% back in December, but the shortfall in state funding led to another 3% increase this month. For out-of-state students, tuition at the University of Iowa will increase by more than $1,700 while Iowa State tuition will increase by about half that.


Iowa graduates already accumulate one of the highest debts to go to college in the country, and this will more than likely increase that problem. Community colleges have also been forced to raise tuition next fall as state funding has declined.


Many lawmakers disagreed with the GOP funding plan that raised tuition for Iowa students but left over $500 million in new corporate tax breaks in place. Final approval of the tuition increase is scheduled for June.


Troubled For-Profit Kaplan University to be Acquired


Indiana-based, public institution Purdue University has announced it will acquire the credential-granting programs and operations of the troubled for-profit Iowa-based Kaplan University. Kaplan University students, staff, and campus locations will be absorbed by Purdue University under a new name.


According to Inside Higher Ed, about 85% of Kaplan’s current students are enrolled in fully online programs, with the rest in hybrid ones. Kaplan University has lost students and revenue in recent years after a series of high-profile investigations and lawsuits over some for-profit colleges, and Kaplan has been criticized for its student recruiting practices and the value of its credentials.


The Iowa College Student Aid Commission said that Iowa residents attending Kaplan University will become ineligible for state-funded financial aid programs upon consummation of the "transaction." Approximately 870 students attending Kaplan University during the 2016-17 academic year received funding through the Iowa Tuition Grant, and over 60 received funding through the Iowa National Guard Educational Assistance Program. Iowa College Aid staff plan to work with Kaplan University officials to develop a transition plan for students impacted by the loss of state aid.


– State Rep. Curt Hanson represents Iowa House District 82.

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