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Legislative update from Rep. Sharon Steckman

From Rep. Sharon Steckman of Mason City –

One of the things that has been striking about this week has been the huge number of emails that I have received about HF 513 which is a bill that requires that the driver of a vehicle that approaches a bicyclist from the rear move to the opposite lane until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.  All of the letters have been from bicyclists who have shared their “near-misses” or accidents caused by vehicles coming too close.

An amendment has been added that may prove to be a roadblock in the bill’s progress; it contains unreasonable requirements for bicyclist clothing, no matter whether day or night.

However, all of the conversation has led me to think about road courtesy and what we as individuals can do even if a law is not passed.  I know that I will be even more aware that I should move to the opposite lane when approaching a bicyclist from the rear just as I would when passing another vehicle…and that I will wait until the opposite lane is clear just as I would when passing another vehicle.

Sometimes we should just do things, not because the law requires it, but because it is the right thing to do.
Speaking of road safety, the Senate has passed a bill (SF 234) that makes the use of electronic communication devices while driving a primary offense.  This would include reading, writing or sending electronic texts.

It has been brought to my attention that April 4 is Equal Pay Day.  This day commemorates how much longer women have to work to earn the same amount of pay as men do in comparable jobs…in other words, it takes three months and four days for women to earn as much as men do in twelve months.   At the Capitol, female legislators and clerks plan to wear red on that day and attach a dollar bill, folded to resemble a ribbon, to their badges.

Floor action this week has included the passage of the CAFO Nuisance Exemption Bill (HF 468) which limits the ability of Iowans to sue CAFO’s for damages for such things as health issues brought on by proximity to the facility, decrease of fair market value of property and/or loss of enjoyment of property.  I voted against this bill and I know its legality will be challenged in the courts.

Many people in our area have received notices from their Medicaid provider, AmeriHealth Caritas, that they are having difficulty negotiating lower reimbursement rates with the Mercy Health Network.   If agreement is not successfully reached, it will leave many Medicaid recipients without a health care provider.

Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation Legislation Moves to Senate

Iowa workers injured on the job would receive less medical care and benefits under a plan approved by Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House.

For around 100 years the Iowa’s workers’ compensation law has acted to balance the rights of employers with those of employees.  As part of the balance, if an employee is injured, they cannot sue the employer, and the employer will pay compensation benefits based on the type of injury the employee suffered while on the job.

The Republican bill, which is now being considered in the Iowa Senate, makes numerous changes to Iowa’s workers’ compensation.  In addition to limiting how long an injured worker can receive benefits, the bill reclassifies how a shoulder injury is compensated by moving the injury from a whole body injury to a scheduled injury.  This eliminates an additional benefit an injured employee may have qualified for had the injury been classified as whole body.

Employers would also be required to take into account pre-existing conditions and past injuries in determining benefits for a new injury.  Lastly, the bill no longer incentivizes employers to pay compensation benefits to injured employees on time.  As a result, injured workers may have to wait years after they were injured on the job to receive compensation benefits.

These changes would take effect on July 1, 2017, and apply to injuries and claims filed after that date.

Headaches Continue for Medicaid Privatization 

A new dispute between one of the three for-profit companies managing the state’s Medicaid program and one of the state’s largest health care providers could soon leave 22,000 Iowans scrambling to find another health care provider.

After reporting millions in losses earlier this year, AmeriHealth Caritas has notified patients of the Mercy Health Network that they are having difficulty getting Mercy to agree to lower reimbursement rates for the services they provide to Iowans on Medicaid.

AmeriHealth has also informed providers that they will cut their pay for the services they provide to keep people in their home longer.  As a result, many consumers will lose the services they need to stay at home, where they want to be.  Studies have shown keeping a person in their home longer is more cost effective than a person living in a twenty-four hour care facility.

Since it began a year ago, Iowa’s Medicaid privatization has been plagued with trouble for patients and providers. Several health care providers have been forced to close their doors after lower reimbursement rates and delayed payments from the three for-profit companies now managing the state’s Medicaid program. Last summer, the Governor even agreed to pay the private companies an additional $33 million due to them not making enough money.

250,000 Iowans Lose Health Care under Federal GOP Plan

According to the Iowa Hospital Association, up to 250,000 Iowans could lose their health care coverage under a new proposal offered by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to replace the federal Affordable Care Act. The United States House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

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