Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

February 7, 2013

Another View

Helping Our Governor Think

Charlotte Shivvers

Knoxville —  

My recent trip to the Capitol revealed surprises:  Iowa wants clean water but has the fox guarding the chickens there, and even more amazing – our Governor wants Iowa to become the healthiest state but he rejects the expanded Medicaid that our federal government offers!

Instead, he encourages more exercise and healthier diets.  

Governor, I need lots of inspiration in that direction, but that won’t help when appendicitis or heart failure threatens. I need health care!  You needed health care when you were rushed to the hospital for emergency heart surgery a few years ago.  And the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would provide health care to nearly 150,000 more Iowans who can’t afford it now.  Governor, you want a healthier state and you turn away a complete health care plan for 150,000 of us? 

You want more doctors – but they will have to be paid.  

You are concerned about keeping Iowa and Iowans fiscally sound.  So listen up.  Expanded Medicaid not only gives us $30,000,000 in health care coverage (and 90 percent of that in future years) but saves us from paying for the uninsured's emergency room treatment.   That is the most expensive AND the least effective medical care – no follow up and no prescription drugs.   Without Medicaid expansion, all that emergency care will be paid for by us!   Yes, emergency room costs add to hospital costs which are added to the insurance costs for those of us who can pay. It’s estimated that sharing this uncompensated care now adds from $1,000 to $1,200/year to insurance costs for a family of four.

Even worse, without the Medicaid insurance we miss out on what really could make us the healthiest state – preventive care.  That would encourage healthier lifestyles, give periodic check ups, and prevent the spread of communicable disease.  My child’s cancer might well be noticed before it becomes an inoperable tumor leading to early death.  Preventive care costs less!  

Mr. Governor, this Medicaid expansion may be most important for mental health.   Why?  Many who could then receive treatment have mental health issues – the source of major public safety (think guns) and drug enforcement issues.  Iowa currently has one of the worst mental health care systems in the US.  We desperately need Medicaid help to give more young Iowans the chance to live happy lives.    

Governor, if we turn away the $30,000,000, it doesn’t save federal dollars, the money just goes to another, smarter state.  You say you’re concerned that the Feds can’t keep up this payment, but that hasn’t kept you from seeking federal help with highways, food stamps, or flood relief.  And 48 prominent Iowa organizations – from the Iowa Hospital Association to the Cancer Society to AARP – came to the State House pleading for this Medicaid expansion.  Now, Governor Kasich of Ohio has switched to Medicaid expansion, too.

Mr. Branstad, the biggest reason why turning away Medicaid makes no sense is this:  I’ll bet you aspire to the Golden Rule.  You probably believe as I do that we need to help our neighbor as we would like our neighbor to help us.  When my brother loses his job and his health insurance, I alone cannot make up the difference.  But together we could.  Please, Mr. Governor, have the courage to change your mind and join us to help our sisters and brothers.  That will be healthy for all of us.