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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Tuition rises again after budget cuts

By Phil Miller | Jun 21, 2018

Students who plan on attending one of the state’s three public universities next year will be paying more money and taking on more debt to earn a degree.

The Board of Regents made final approval of tuition increases for next fall after the majority party lawmakers and the Governor cut the budgets for the three universities earlier this year.

The approved increases will be 3.8 percent for Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. The University of Northern Iowa will see a 2.8 percent increase.

While the Regents sought a $12 million increase that would be targeted to student financial aid, the General Assembly approved a budget that was $2.6 million less than the previous year, and $12.4 million less than two years ago.

The increase in tuition could lead to more Iowa students looking at out-of-state schools in bordering states that offer lower tuition for Iowa students.

Board of Regent and former Republican State Senator Larry McKibben even called out Republican lawmakers and the Governor for the tuition hikes again this year.

“Iowans need to understand that this is probably the low side of tuition in the future, in the next years to come, if we do not get any more government support from the state of Iowa,” he said. “I view it that way when we are taking three great universities downhill.”

McKibben said Iowa’s universities are losing talented faculty and researchers to states with more competitive salaries. He also said they don’t have enough money to properly fund scholarships.

 

State auditor to review failing Iowa Medicaid program

The State Auditor has launched a new investigation into Iowa’s Medicaid privatization fiasco as state officials can’t explain how much — or if — privatization has saved any tax dollars.

Ever since the Governor unilaterally privatized Medicaid in 2016, the results have been disastrous for the people of Iowa. Iowans have been systematically denied critical care and essential medical equipment as services have severely been reduced or cut altogether. This was shown in the most recent State Ombudsman report, where there has been a 157% increase in Medicaid-related problems reported to the agency in 2017.

Since privatization began, questions have been raised about the supposed savings to that state. Before the Branstad/Reynolds Administration unilaterally privatized Medicaid, they estimated it would save the state $232 million by this budget year. In December, the Department of Human Services (DHS) indicated in a report that the cost savings was only around $47.1 million.

In a letter recently released by DHS, the amount of savings changed again but Reynolds Administration officials were unable to explain how this number was calculated. After this latest unverified savings, the State Auditor launched her investigation into Medicaid.

Even more troubling, Iowa’s Medicaid Director Mike Randol, previously held the same position for five years in Kansas. In the past month, it was found through an independent audit of the Kansas Medicaid program that there was insufficient and unreliable data to determine the actual savings to the state.

This audit process was only initiated because a Democratic lawmaker requested a review of the Medicaid program due to all the inconsistent data being released by DHS.

Medicaid provides health care to 600,000 Iowans, including those in nursing homes. According to recent estimates, about 70 percent of Medicaid dollars are used for the elderly, severely disabled, and poor. Because this affects our most vulnerable population, it is imperative we understand the true impact privatization is having on our state.

 

— Phil Miller serves District 82 in the Iowa House of Representatives. The district includes all of Davis and Van Buren counties, and most of Jefferson County.

He can be reached at 641-472-2511, or at phil.miller@legis.iowa.gov.

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