A three-year push to ensure every Iowa child has health care coverage is among the key provisions of legislation Governor Chet Culver has signed into law. “We’ll invest $25 million over the next three years to allow us to insure every child in Iowa,” Culver says, “and because of this investment it is likely we will become the first state in the nation to do so.”
The two bills Culver signed contain a number of new initiatives. For example, insurance companies will no longer be able to cite a preexisting condition as a reason to deny coverage to Iowans who move from a group plan to an individual policy. Another new rule will let parents keep their adult children on their family plan until those kids reach the age of 25.
“That demographic group of…18 to 25 are most likely to not have any health care at all and that is a very important part of this bill,” Culver says. The governor’s staff staged the bill-signing ceremony today at a clinic in Des Moines. Dr. Bery Engebretsen, medical director at the Primary Health Care clinic, says just over half of their 21,000 patients do not have health insurance.
“Americans like to think that we have the best heath care in the world but the reality is we don’t. There have been countless studies that have shown that on just about any type of health indicator you want to track — life expectancy, infant mortality, childhood immunization rates, you can go on and on — the U.S. actually ranks way, way down the list,” Engebretsen says.
“We used to be in the top ten. Now we’re not even in the top ten in most of those indicators except one, actually…We do spend more, per capita, than any other country in the world.” Aside from the aim to get more Iowans covered by insurance, the legislation creates new state commissions to focus on updating medical technology.
Engebretsen says that’s part of a necessary “blueprint” for the future. “If you think about what grocery stores did 20 or 30 years ago with the scanners and everything runs off those scanners — heath care in this country is way, way behind even the grocery stores of our country,” he says.
Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a former nurse, praised the bipartisan coalition of legislators who worked on the bills. “We’re passionate about this issue and when we sat down and worked through various problems we found solutions,” Judge says. “We found common solutions and that’s how we develop good legislation.”
Lawmakers also have set aside $5.5 million for Iowa hospitals to cover the shortfall created when federal payments to those hospitals don’t cover the full cost of treating elderly patients in the government-run Medicare system.