Iowa Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Governor Release Final Report
During a February 4 press conference, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Ben McLean, CEO of Ruan Transportation and chair of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, announced the release of the board’s final report. The report includes a number of public health and health care recommendations, including:
- Continue telehealth parity, including coverage for telephone-based services until broadband access is available for all Iowans;
- Support the Economic Recovery Advisory Board’s Connectivity Working Group recommendation for broadband access for all Iowans;
- Utilize regional approaches to building systems of care that improves access to health care services in rural Iowa;
- Focus on statewide access to EMS services;
- Investment in loan forgiveness programs for shortage professions and career progression type programs; and
- Maintain and grow healthcare workforce to solidify and sustain recommendations.
UnityPoint Health supports these recommendations, of which include a number of the health system’s key Iowa state legislative priorities.
The 12-member Economic Recovery Advisory board was established in June of 2020 by Gov. Reynolds to assess the economic impact of COVID-19 on Iowa’s industries, businesses and workforces, analyze recovery efforts and recommend strategies that ensure the future prosperity of Iowa. The final report is intended to give Iowa’s Executive and Legislative branches – including the governor and the state legislature, among others – guidance on legislation and funding to support recovery efforts across the state.
Iowa Legislature Approaches First Funnel Week
The eighth week of the Iowa General Assembly – March 1-5 – serves as the first of two “funnel weeks” at the Iowa Capitol. A “funnel” is a self-imposed deadline when bills are required to pass at least a full committee in one chamber (House or Senate) to remain “alive” or eligible for the rest of the legislative session. If a bill fails to advance through a committee, it is considered “dead” for the session and is tabled; however, there are some exceptions to the funnel rule, including appropriations (budget), ways and means and government oversight bills, among others.
Key Bills of Note to UnityPoint Health
Certificate of Need (CON)
Senate File 4: Introduced in the first week of the legislative session, this bill would eliminate Iowa’s certificate of need (CON) process. The bill has been assigned a subcommittee but it has not yet met to consider the bill. UnityPoint Health supports the continuation of the CON process as a tested means to ensure that only needed services are developed in Iowa. CON benefits Iowans by ensuring accessible, cost-effective, and high-quality care for patients.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
House File 562: On Wednesday, the Iowa House unanimously passed HF 562. Known as the EMS Essential Services bill, this legislation is a modification from bills introduced in previous legislative sessions that would allow for cities and counties to levy additional funds to help fund EMS and eliminates the five-year sunset on the specific tax levy, among other items. The bill is now funnel-proof and heads to the Senate for their consideration. UnityPoint Health supports this legislation and applauds the Iowa House for their commitment to advancing legislation that supports long-term sustainability of lifesaving EMS services for Iowans.
Medical Liability Reform
House File 592 (formerly House File 517): Medical liability reform legislation advanced through an Iowa House subcommittee and full committee last week and is now eligible for consideration by the full House This bill, HF 592 (formerly HF 517), proposes a hard cap of $1 million on intangible non-economic damages. This bill would align Iowa with over 30 other states, including nearly all states bordering Iowa, that have similar laws in place.
As reported to the Iowa General Assembly in a report from the Iowa Carver College of Medicine’s Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs last year, Iowa ranks 42nd in the nation for the number of physicians per 100,000 population and has experienced a net loss of 121 primary care physicians in the last five years. Therefore, it is critical that the state, the legislature, and health care providers work collaboratively to develop strategies that will favor further growth of the Iowa physician and provider workforces.
The bill has passed through a House committee and is expected to be considered by the full Iowa House in the coming weeks. UnityPoint Health supports passage of this legislation.
Thank you to Dr. Sanjeeb Khatua (pictured, far right), president & CEO of UnityPoint Clinic, for his remarks in support of the bill at a recent subcommittee, and Registered Nurse and House Human Resources Committee Chairwoman Representative Ann Meyer of Fort Dodge (pictured, left) for leading the bill in the Iowa House.
Rural Primary Care Loan Program
Senate File 129: The House and Senate passed Senate File 129, which would make common-sense updates to the state’s primary care loan repayment program. The legislation allows OB-GYNs to participate in the program, ensures flexibility for part-time physician practice and allows for practice site flexibility to expand psychiatric access, among others. The bill now heads to the governor for her signature. UnityPoint Health supports this legislation.
A number of telehealth bills have been introduced – primarily in the Iowa House – during the first weeks of session. Of note is House File 88, would allow eligible health care providers to provide health care services to patients or clients through audio-only means. UnityPoint Health is supportive of legislation that provides Iowans with additional tools to access high-quality care and is monitoring potential amendments or changes to the legislation, including ensuring audio-only services are used between providers and patients or clients with existing care relationships.
A number of bills related to vaccinations have been introduced in the legislature that have not yet received subcommittee hearings or have not advanced. One major bill of note is Senate File 193, that would allow for broader vaccination exemptions and prevents hospitals from requiring an employee to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, among other new proposed requirements. A Senate subcommittee approved the bill and it is now eligible for consideration by the House Human Resources committee. UnityPoint Health takes seriously its responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the people and families we serve. While we recognize there are strong opinions regarding immunization, we trust the medical evidence that shows the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the associated risks, and we strongly encourage vaccination for our patients and anyone eligible.
For more information on State of Iowa advocacy, legislative, policy and regulatory issues of impact to UnityPoint Health, please contact Ashley Thompson, director of government & external affairs for UnityPoint Health.