Changing Medicine. Changing Lives. ®

November 13, 2017

Transforming health care together

I was privileged last Thursday to kick off the 10th annual “Rebalancing Health Care in the Heartland,” event hosted in Des Moines by the UI Health Sciences Policy Council. The event is a valuable opportunity for focused discussions with other thought leaders and policymakers about how we can better meet the health care needs of Iowans, especially those in rural communities.

About 150 people attended this year’s session, titled “Transforming Health Care During Uncertain Times,” including state and local health care administrators, health professionals, state legislators, and several candidates for Governor of Iowa.

With Iowa in the open enrollment period for individual health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen provided an update on Iowa’s insurance marketplace. (The individual market is where persons not receiving health insurance from employers or the government can sign up to receive health insurance.) He described the state’s attempt to gain approval for the Iowa Stopgap Measure, a proposal to improve Iowa’s individual marketplace for 2018. Withdrawal of the proposal at the end of October leaves the state with only one provider—Medica—offering individual plans.

Ashley Ridlon, a senior manager at the Bipartisan Policy Center, provided an update on congressional activity in Washington, D.C. She highlighted the bipartisan Senate HELP committee that developed a bill with several proposed fixes to the ACA, including continuing insurance subsidies for two years, providing states more flexibility, and changing requirements for purchase of bronze health plans. But said the effort is now stalled.

She also warned that Congress still has major items pending, including extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired October 1, along with funding for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Iowa has provided enough funds to keep hawk-I (Iowa’s CHIP) through March, but other states are already running out of money for their programs.

Dr. James Ray of the UI College of Pharmacy helped us see the opioid crisis through a different lens—comparing it to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s in terms of numbers and the critical culmination of the nation recognizing the public health need to address the crisis. He noted the positive trends in prescribing, but said more needs to be done to educate providers, government leaders, the public, and those living with addiction.

At the end of the day, six people campaigning to be elected Governor of Iowa shared their thoughts and concerns on Medicaid managed care in the state and mental health issues.

One of the key takeaway messages from the day was that we will need to work more closely than ever with our political leaders as we continue to advocate for our patients and families across Iowa. By continuing to work together, I firmly believe that we can positively influence the coming transformation in health care for Iowa and beyond.

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