November 29, 2014

U-I expert says power of attorney planning important for everyone

Josephine Gittler

Josephine Gittler

The Iowa AARP and the University of Iowa College of Law are in the midst of an education and outreach campaign to explain the state’s new Power of Attorney Act. The act seeks to make it easier for you to designate someone to handle your financial plans when you are unable. U-I professor, Josephine Gittler, is working with AARP on the campaign, and says designating a Power of Attorney provides important protections.

“It’s really prudent for everybody to anticipate that they might be in a situation where they’re going to be unable to manage their financial affairs. And to ahead of time, to designate someone that they really trust to handle their financial affairs,” Gittler says. She says the holidays are a good time for families to discuss the issue with elderly members. Gittler says planning ahead solves

“There are lots of problems that arise in the absence of a valid financial power of attorney,” Gittler says. “And the only alternative may be for someone to petition the court to establish a conservatorship — appoint a person to manage an incapacitated Iowan’s financial affairs. And that can be expensive.”

She says that court process takes the decision out of your hands. “The individual who is no longer able unable to manage his or her financial affairs has no say in who is going to be appointed by the court. So, it really makes sense for everybody to execute a valid financial power of attorney,” Gittler says.

While the focus is often on older Iowans creating a financial power of attorney, Gittler says people of all ages need to consider it. “I have students who are in their 20’s, and I tell them they should have a financial power of attorney. Why? Because you never know,” Gittler explains. Gittler says even for a young person, an unexpected accident can leave them temporarily unable to manager their finances.

“You may sustain injuries that affect you ability to make decisions. There are all sorts of events in life that occur that we don’t want to have happen, that we don’t anticipate, that might happen,” Gittler says. Gittier is the director of the National Health Law and Policy Rource Center at the University of Iowa College of Law.

For more information on a financial power of attorney, go to the center’s blog.


SNAP benefits help more Iowans to avoid hunger

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

About 13% of all Iowans now put food on the table each day with the help of SNAP benefits.

The latest Farm Bill is providing some $200 million in grants that will be used to help those receiving SNAP benefits to find jobs — or better paying jobs.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the face of the SNAP program has changed in the last 40 years.

“Today, only 7-8% of SNAP beneficiaries are cash welfare recipients,” Vilsack says. “It used to be that hardly anybody had income in SNAP. Today, 41% of households have somebody earning a paycheck of one kind or another. It’s a different mix of people. It’s a different kind of program than it was, ending the stereotypes, making sure people understand there are a lot of folks struggling.”

Almost 421,000 Iowans receive monthly SNAP benefits, about 13% of the state’s population. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, says the majority of those receiving SNAP benefits work but are under-employed or under-paid.

“Nearly three-quarters of SNAP beneficiaries are senior citizens, people with disabilities or children of moms and dads who are actually in the workforce,” Vilsack says. “Forty-one percent of SNAP beneficiaries live in households where there is income being generated by a job.”

Vilsack says the grant money will be used to provide education and training, rehabilitative services for individuals in need and target hard to serve areas.

He says, “Congress in the Farm Bill basically created a fund of $200-million, said that we could use that fund to fund up to 10 pilot projects, $165-million of that 200-million will be used for actual costs and helping to create new programs and better programs and better linkages to job opportunities and 35-million will be used to evaluate those pilot projects.”

Several of the pilot programs, he says, will be tested in what are considered hard-to-serve areas, including rural parts of Iowa.


Governor again calling for state employees to pay part of health care cost

Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Terry Branstad

The state opened negotiations Monday with the largest state employee union and health insurance is again an issue. The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 61, requested an 8-percent increase in salaries over a two-year period, and wants the state to continue paying 100-percent of health insurance.

The state is proposing a 1 percent pay increase with state employees picking up 20 percent of the cost of insurance.

Governor Terry Branstad told reporters Monday that state workers should pay part of their insurance costs. “I have been on record for a long time in feeling that everybody ought to have some skin in the game, ought to make some contribution,” Branstad says.

Branstad sought the same thing during negotiations two years ago and ultimately an arbitrator ruled the state should continue to pay 100 percent of the health insurance, but denied the employees a pay raise.

Branstad says the union representing state law officers has agreed to pick up part of the cost of their insurance, and non-contract employees do as well. He says other state employees should also contribute. “Frankly we are paying a price for it not happening,” Branstad says. “The executive council had to approve a 40-million dollar increase in cost in our health care. And I think if people have some skin in and we work in a collaborative way together, we can do a better job of controlling health care costs for state employees.”

The negotiations on the new contract will resume in January behind closed doors.


Group asks Hy-Vee to stop selling tobacco products

Hy-Vee store.

Hy-Vee store.

An anti-smoking group has gone public with a campaign calling on Iowa’s largest grocery store chain to stop selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes in its stores that contain pharmacies or health care clinics. Jeneane Moody, executive director of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance, says they’re targeting Hy-Vee because of their sponsorship of a triathlon and Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

“They’ve really developed their brand around health and wellness, so we think this makes them a good candidate to consider this opportunity,” Moody said. The board of directors for the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance sent a letter to Hy-Vee officials in early October about the idea, but have not received a direct response. The alliance chose to go public with their effort today because it coincides with the American Cancer Society’s “Great American Smokeout.”

In a written statement, Hy-Vee noted the company doesn’t advertise tobacco products, but also doesn’t believe it should “police customers’ personal decisions.” Moody is hoping Hy-Vee will follow in the footsteps of the CVS pharmacy chain, which removed tobacco products from its stores earlier this year.

“I think CVS set a great example by showing that because they’re a provider of health services they thought it was incongruous to also sell a product that kills their customers,” Moody said. Hy-Vee is headquartered in West Des Moines and has 235 stores in eight Midwestern states, including 123 in Iowa.

Here’s Hy-Vee’s statement:

For years now, health and wellness has been a major part of who Hy-Vee is, and our commitment shows through the numerous healthy offerings in our stores and the activities we support in communities. As a retailer, we offer consumers a variety of products; we do not believe it is our role to police their personal decisions. We actively try to encourage customers’ healthy choices by keeping tobacco products behind courtesy counters and excluding them from marketing. And in contrast, we visibly tout the convenient access to smoking cessation programs and products provided through our pharmacies and in-store dietitians and clinics.
Hy-Vee has:
220 dietitians in 225 stores.
243 pharmacies; this number includes our Hy-Vee Drugstores, pharmacy clinics and in-store pharmacies.
160 HealthMarkets across our 235 stores.

Hy-Vee has strived to make the HealthMarket a focal point in many of our stores – strategically placing it near the pharmacy and dietitians to provide customers easy access to health and wellness information, products and services. Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of more than $8.7 billion annually. Hy-Vee ranks among the top 25 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States. Supermarket News, the authoritative voice of the food industry, has honored the company with a Whole Health Enterprise Award for its leadership in providing services and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit

Pharmacy Board delays decision on medical marijuana

Pharmacy-BoardThe Iowa Board of Pharmacy today tabled a recommendation that the Iowa Legislature reclassify marijuana. A three-member subcommittee had recommended the full board urge state lawmakers to make marijuana a “Schedule Two” substance, meaning it could be used for medical purposes.

Board Chairman Ed Maier is a pharmacist from Monona County. “I believe we decided to table it to have a little more time to think about it, primarily because of the fact that federal law and state law would be in conflict,” Maier said. Federal law classifies marijuana as Schedule One, which bans most uses of the drug.

Medical marijuana advocate Sally Gaer of West Des Moines said she doesn’t understand the decision to delay a decision, especially since the pharmacy board previously recommended reclassifying marijuana back in 2010. “I’m really disappointed,” Gaer said. “I don’t understand why they need another discussion on all of it. I’m just really frustrated.”

The board will return to the issue at its meeting on January 3. Gaer has a 24-year-old daughter who suffers from intractable epilepsy and is currently taking four different anticonvulsant drugs, including one that’s imported from France and isn’t approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. “So, FDA approval doesn’t mean a ton to me at this point,” Gaer said. “All of her meds she’s been on have not been approved for use in children and she started on them as a child. We’re out of options for medications to try with her, so we would like to try the cannabidiol oil and whatever else might help her.”

Gaer helped lead the lobbying effort earlier this year that resulted in Governor Branstad signing a bill decriminalizing possession of cannabis oil as treatment for chronic epilepsy. But, Gaer notes most states where cannabis oil can be legally purchased also restrict sales to residents of that state. In addition, the ID cards that will protect epileptic patients in Iowa from prosecution if they’re caught with cannabis oil won’t be issued until January 30.

“I’m frustrated with the bill because in the final hours, everything was kind of sliced and diced out of it,” Gaer said. “The reciprocity for hurting Iowans who are refugees in Colorado…they can’t bring their loved ones home (to Iowa) to see their family and bring their medication with their children. That’s frustrating to me too.” Gaer and other parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy have been asking state lawmakers to allow marijuana to be grown here, so cannabis oil can be produced and purchased in Iowa.

Dale Woolery, Associate Director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy, praised the cautious approach of the pharmacy board. “It’s not an easy thing. It tells us how difficult this issue really is,” Woolery said. “We don’t believe moving marijuana out of Schedule One is required to do some of the things that are being talked about, (such as) research and CBD (cannabidiol) access. It’s been demonstrated that can happen with marijuana as a Schedule One.”

While the pharmacy board recommended in 2010 that lawmakers reclassify marijuana, the legislature has not taken any action on the matter.


ISU experts to ‘shore up gaps’ in website with resources for dementia patients

LifelongExperts on aging at Iowa State University are partnering with state officials and the Iowa Alzheimer’s Association to enhance an online guide that lists the resources available for patients with dementia.

“I think it’s been difficult, especially in rural areas, to understand what sort of access people have to long-term supports and services,” says Jennifer Margrett, director of the gerontology program at Iowa State University.

The website is a “resource center” created by the Iowa Department of Aging and the Iowa State University research team will help evaluate and “shore up gaps” in the services available to dementia patients. is a website that’s intended to be a one-stop-shop so people who are facing age-related issues or challenges related to a disability can log on and find access to services in their area,” Margrett says.

According to Margrett, many home and community-based dementia services are underutilized because Iowans don’t know the programs exist or how to access them. Margrett says there are “care deserts” in Iowa, however, as sparsely populated rural areas lack some of these services and, as a result, persons with dementia are often placed in long-term care facilities rather than receiving the care they need at home.

Margrett and her team are working to develop “tools” for family discussions about long-term care plans.

“So hopefully we can start having more conversations ahead of time and get individuals and spouses and families talking about this before there’s a need or when there’s some early needs, so we can start planning so someone doesn’t get to that point where they feel like they don’t have any options,” Margrett says.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that by 2025, Iowa will see an 18 percent increase in the number of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. If you don’t have access to the internet, there’s also a phone number to call to get the same information available on That number is 866-468-7887.

Two social workers, accused of having sex with clients, surrender licenses

A Mason City woman accused of having a sex with a client she was counseling has agreed to surrender her license to the Iowa Board of Social Work.

According to online documents, Lisa Bailey — who was a licensed social worker – sent “numerous” texts and made phone calls to a client earlier this year and eventually had a sexual relationship with her client. Bailey admits she was “mentally distressed” at the time and taking a prescription drug that affected her judgment. According to the Board of Social Work, Bailey was sent home from work on “multiple occasions” because she was “emotionally distraught” and Bailey was eventually fired from her job due to her “inappropriate relationship” with her client.

The board filed charges against Bailey in August. Bailey has signed a settlement agreement, voluntarily surrendering her social workers’ license.

A 62-year-old social worker from rural Newton who’s accused of having sex with a client has voluntarily surrendered his license to practice, too.

This past summer, Larry Anderson notified the Iowa Board of Social Work that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a client. On July 31st Anderson was charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor. Ankeny police say Anderson had sex with a female client after she grew emotionally dependent on him. Authorities say Anderson and his client had sex in Anderson’s home.