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Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s report (issued 8/29/16)


August 30th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The latest Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s report (issued Monday), indicates a man from Cass County was arrested early Saturday morning, following a traffic stop. A pickup driven by 61-year old Ricky Lee Roby, of Atlantic, was pulled over at around 6:50-a.m. on Highway 92, near 440th Street. A routine records check revealed Roby’s driving status was banned. He was placed under arrest for Driving While Barred.

A man from Carson was arrested late Friday night in Pott. County, after his pickup was pulled over for speeding and allegedly showed signs of impairment. 25-year old Colton Jarett Clark was placed under arrest for OWI/2nd offense.

Two men were arrested Friday evening, in Pottawattamie County. Officials say 30-year old Phillip Michael Houston, of Walnut, was arrested on a warrant for Driving While Barred. While serving the warrant at a residence in Walnut, deputies spoke with two other men, one of whom had a warrant out of Crawford County. 22-year old Jacob Dwayne Jens, of Avoca, was subsequently arrest on the warrant and held at the Pott. County Jail, for extradition to Crawford County.

Saturday night, 63-year old Brenda Faye Bornn, of Oakland, was arrested at a residence in Avoca, after a neighbor had called authorities with a complaint. It turns out, Bornn had three warrants issued for her arrest out of Clay County. She was arrested on the warrants for Interfering with Official Acts, Failure to Appear (in court) on a Possession of Controlled Substance/2nd offense charge, Failure to Affix a Drug Tax Stamp and Theft in the 5th Degree. Bornn was brought to the Pott. County Jail and held pending extradition to Clay County.

Early Saturday morning, 36-year old Halie Erin Smith, of Council Bluffs, was pulled over and arrested following a traffic stop for failure to dim her headlights. Smith allegedly displayed signs of impairment, and was taken into custody for OWI/1st Offense, Possession of a Controlled Substance (9.7-grams of marijuana), and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (3 marijuana smoking pipes).

First quarterly report: $22.2 million saved through Medicaid privatization


August 30th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

State officials say the three private companies now managing care for the 560-thousand Medicaid patients in Iowa saved Iowa taxpayers 22 million dollars in April, May and June — but exactly how that savings came about is unclear. Liz Matney, of the Iowa Department of Human Services says there are “pretty wide variances” in how the companies report paid claims.

“We’re investigating as to whether or not that accurately represents the number of claims that they’ve reimbursed or whether we have a data reporting issue,” she says. In the department’s quarterly report on Medicaid spending, there’s a “top 10” list of why claims for prescription drugs were denied. UnitedHealthcare’s number one reason was because of an error. The number two reason AmeriHealth hadn’t paid those claims was because the “claim has not been paid.”

Representative Lisa Heddens, a Democrat from Ames, says it makes no sense for the report to label a processed claim as “clean” if the doctor, hospital or other health care provider hadn’t been paid correctly or hadn’t been paid at all. “I don’t feel like I’ve got an accurate picture here in a number of areas in the report,” Heddens said. Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says she’s getting nothing but complaints from constituents.

“What I wish is that one day, someone would come to the mic and say: ‘I love the new system. It’s working for me and this is the best thing that’s ever happened to the state of Iowa,'” Mascher said. “I have heard that from no one.” Kim Foltz is C-E-O of the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Iowa. It’s one of the three managed care companies for Iowa Medicaid patients. “We’re serving approximately 190,000 members today and we actually do have a very large number of positive stories,” Foltz says. “…I would say that we have those positive stories. Those folks don’t come to these sessions.”

Cynthia MacDonald is president of the Amerigroup plan for Iowa Medicaid patients. “The depth of the kinds of work and process that we do as managed care organizations is profound,” MacDonald told legislators.” Cheryl Harding is Iowa market president for AmeriHealth. “We have lots of really heart-warming stories and I wish those were the people who came to these meetings to talk to you, but they aren’t,” Harding said, with a laugh.

Last week, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said the companies are preventing “significant” fraud, waste and abuse. State officials told legislators yesterday that there are now four software systems in place to track fraud and data will be available later on how much fraud’s being caught. The state of Iowa spent more than 332 million dollars on the Medicaid program during April, May and June.

The three companies were fined 44-hundred dollars for errors found in claim information submitted in June. Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan says the Branstad Administration made a “unilateral decision” not to fine the three companies for failing to meet performance standards in April and May. “What are we going to do to improve communications between the administration and the legislature?” Johnson asked DHS administrators. “Because I think you get about a D+ on that.” Johnson recently changed his party registration from Republican to “no party” in protest of having Donald Trump as the G-O-P’s presidential nominee.

Republican Representative Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant says there had been a “few hiccups” for Medicaid patients and health care providers since April 1st, but he said “the time for partisanship is over.””Transitions are hard and we know we’ve encountered some issues,” Heaton said. Heaton is co-chair of the legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee. Two dozen Medicaid patients and Iowa health care providers with complaints about the new system spoke out during a two-hour public hearing on Monday morning at the statehouse.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Tue., Aug. 30th 2016


August 30th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:30 a.m. CDT

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Life insurance companies are setting up “shadow insurers” to take on some of their liabilities and free up some of their reserves. Critics say the practice allows the companies to mask their true financial positions and poses a long-term risk to policyholders. Now one critic is seeking to force the release of records related to the deals in Iowa, which has encouraged the practice.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has issued disaster proclamations for two northeast Iowa counties that endured severe storms and flooding. Branstad Monday issued the proclamations for Bremer and Chickasaw counties, allowing state resources to be used to aid in recovery efforts from storms Aug. 23. Branstad’s action also activates the Individual Assistance Program for residents of the two counties, providing grants of up to $5,000 for certain households for car repairs, clothing, food and temporary housing.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Board of Psychology is explaining why it declined earlier this month to adopt a rule that would have prohibited Iowa-licensed psychologists from trying to reverse a patient’s sexual orientation with a practice known as conversion therapy. Gay rights advocates petitioned the board in February to consider the rule. The board says it knows of no licensed Iowa psychologist engaging in conversion therapy and will investigate reports of those employing a therapy deemed harmful or unethical.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A representative for one of the insurance companies overseeing Iowa’s newly privatized Medicaid program says it has lost money during the system’s implementation. Kim Foltz, CEO for UnitedHealthcare’s Iowa operations, cited information in a new quarterly report in telling a legislative oversight committee on Monday at the Iowa Capitol that the company has lost money. She later declined to provide specific information on a dollar figure.

Medicaid patient says she was forced to wait six weeks for catheters


August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Some of Iowa’s Medicaid patients and the professionals who serve them testified this (Monday) morning during a two-hour “listening post” at the statehouse, organized by Democratic legislators. Health care providers complained about late payments and confusion in dealing with the three out-of-state companies that now review and either approve or deny all claims. Medicaid patient Michelle Meadors, of Des Moines, was the final person to testify. She was in a serious car accident five years ago and now is wheelchair-bound.

“I’m here because I was optimistic about this managed care organization because I thought, ‘This is my chance to manage my health care,’ which is what I wanted to do in the first place,” Meadors told lawmakers. “Well, it’s far from being managed. It’s far from being manageable.” Meadors says she was forced to wait six weeks for the catheter tubes she needs. “Now tell me, with everybody that’s in here complaining and whining…because they’re not being paid, that directly affects someone like me,” Meadors says. “So I don’t care what it takes to get it fixed, but we need to stop and get it fixed.”

In addition to Democrats, one Republican legislator and the legislature’s lone independent attended today’s (Monday’s) statehouse hearing. Senator Amanda Ragan, a Democrat from Mason City, says 70 percent of Medicaid spending for disabled Iowans like Meadors and for very poor elderly citizens, many of whom are in Iowa nursing homes. “Unfortunately, problems persist. The problems are serious and the problems are systematic,” Ragan says. “Iowa families, health care providers and communities are suffering from late payments, burdensome paperwork, red tape and unforeseen changes in the three managed care organizations. Iowa’s Medicaid mess is everyone’s problem.”

Derek Laney is the C-E-O of Iowa Focus, an agency with offices in Council Bluffs and Creston that provides services to Iowans with mental illness or who’ve suffered brain injuries. Laney says he “appreciates” the effort by the managed care organizations to control costs. “But I also have direct experience with what isn’t working,” Laney says. “…Authorizations must be processed timely…and all the (managed care organizations) must acknowledge the billing and payment problems that exist.”

One business owner with 70 employees said he had to hire another full-time worker just to file claims for Medicaid patients who are being fitted with prosthetics. His company may soon decide to stop serving Medicaid patients because of the hassle with unpaid claims.

A representative for one of the insurance companies overseeing Iowa’s newly privatized Medicaid program says it has lost money during the system’s implementation. Kim Foltz, CEO for UnitedHealthcare’s Iowa operations, cited information in a new quarterly report in telling a legislative oversight committee on Monday at the Iowa Capitol that the company has lost money. She later declined to provide specific information on a dollar figure.

The confirmation means all three insurance companies that run Iowa’s health care program for more than 500,000 poor and disabled residents have lost money in the initial months of implementation. AmeriHealth Caritas and Amerigroup, the other companies, filed reports recently showing losses in the tens of millions of dollars in the first six months. UnitedHealthcare did not break down those costs in its filing.

(Radio Iowa/A-P)

Iowa crops progressing ahead of schedule

Ag/Outdoor, News

August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops, on average, are ahead of their normal stages of growth. The USDA’s latest crop conditions report (issued today/Monday) states above normal rainfall last week left Iowa farmers with just over four days that were suitable for field work. Record flooding occurred in portions of northeast Iowa as more than eight inches of rain fell in a 24 hour period in a few locations.

The report places 83 percent of the state’s corn and 82 percent of soybeans in good to excellent condition. Ninety-four percent of the corn crop has reached the dough stage, which is eight days ahead of the five year average. Soybeans setting pods reached 96 percent, or about four days ahead of the five year average.

The report notes heavy rain and winds last week damaged some Iowa crops, while sudden death and white mold are causing problems in some soybean fields.

(Radio Iowa)

More Iowa counties planning to boost minimum wage


August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Nearly a year after Johnson County became the first in Iowa to raise their minimum wage above the federal standard of $7.25 an hour, more Iowa counties are now planning to do the same. In Wapello County, the three member County Board of Supervisors intends to raise the minimum wage in stages, eventually reaching a minimum wage of $10.10 in January of 2019. The proposal is to raise the minimum wage by 95 cents each January until reaching $10.10. The wage would be adjusted each July thereafter to account for any increases in the Consumer Price Index for the Midwest Region as published by the US Department of Labor.

Community reaction has been mixed, with many speaking out both in favor and opposed to the ordinance. The proposed ordinance has already passed two public hearings. The supervisors will hold one final public hearing in the coming weeks.

The Polk County board of Supervisors is expected to draft a new minimum wage ordinance in October. In Cedar Rapids, the Linn County Supervisors could pass a similar ordinance as soon as September 12.

(Radio Iowa)

Villisca man arrested for Violation of Probation


August 29th, 2016 by Chris Parks

The Red Oak Police Department reports the arrest of a Villisca man on Monday for Violation of Probation.  At 1:00pm officers arrested 29-year-old Jessie Bruce Fitzwater in the 100 block of West Coolbaugh Street in Red Oak.  He was taken to the Montgomery County Jail and held on $10,000 cash only bond.

Iowa approves health insurance rate hikes for 4 companies


August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s health insurance regulator has approved premium rate increases for four companies ranging from 43 percent to 19 percent. Documents released Monday by Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart say more than 75,200 Iowans will pay more beginning Jan. 1st. The biggest increase of 42.6 percent affects 22,000 customers of Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

About 7,700 policyholders of Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa will see an increase of 37.8 percent if they joined after the federal Affordable Care Act was passed. Another group of 2,300 enrolled prior to the law will see a 42.6 percent increase. The commissioner also approved a 23 percent increase for 42,000 Aetna Health of Iowa policyholders.

Increases of 19 percent for Medica Insurance Co. and 19.8 percent for Gunderson Health Plan also were approved.

Branstad says state patrol could deal with pipeline protests

Ag/Outdoor, News

August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

PELLA, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad says he’ll authorize the Iowa State Patrol to deal with protesters who could try to stop construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline. The Des Moines Register reports Branstad told reporters at his weekly news conference, held this Monday in Pella, that the state patrol would ensure the safety of those building the pipeline, and that could helping local law enforcement respond to protests. The Iowa Utilities Board has approved construction of the pipeline, which will run 1,172 miles through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The route will cut through 18 Iowa counties. Pipeline opponents have promised to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction, but Branstad says they should accept the board’s approval of the project and not break the law.

Agency proposes fining Adventureland over safety issue


August 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa agency has proposed fining Adventureland park after an investigation prompted by the June death of a worker at the theme park. Officials have said Steve Booher was fatally injured June 7 when the Raging River ride started unexpectedly as he was helping people off.

The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the Altoona park $4,500. The park has 15 days to contest the agency’s findings.  A day after the accident state inspectors reported finding found no safety defects. But after a lengthy investigation, Iowa OSHA determined that Adventureland should install devices to ensure that ride assistants are positioned safely before ride operators let the boats advance.