February 9, 2016

Culver responds to Branstad criticism on Medicaid privatization

Chet Culver

Chet Culver

Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver is responding to criticism of current Governor Terry Branstad on Culver’s meetings scheduled in eastern Iowa to discuss the privatization of the Medicaid program.

On Monday, Branstad accused Culver and Senate Democrats of politicizing the issue. Culver says he wants to help people who have questions about the issue.

“Well before my involvement in this matter, Governor Branstad’s risky Medicaid privatization scheme had already started taking on water fast and, in public opinion, was sinking fast,” Culver says. Culver is holding town meetings on Medicaid privatization today in eastern Iowa. “I am working with advocates across Iowa representing more than 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid — including 120,000 with disabilities — to make sure their voices are heard, regarding this bad public policy,” Culver says.

The Republican Branstad, defeated Democrat Culver in 2010, and said Monday that the Medicaid program was in jeopardy when he took office and he had to dig it out of a “big hole” that Culver created.

“Governor Branstad repeatedly has mislead Iowans on the budget. I earned a Triple-A bond rating. We left a surplus of 750 million dollars,” Culver responds. “And we also worked hard to have one of the best Medicaid programs in America. And that’s what’s important, that Iowans who need it, get the care that they deserve.”

Culver says the issue needs to be discussed. “This is not about partisan political shots. It’s about an honest debate on an important public policy matter that is impacting more than a half million Iowans. And that’s why I am getting engaged in this,” according to Culver.

Culver issued a statement that lists several other concerns about the Medicaid privatization, including:

  • An administrative law judge and Governor Branstad’s own department director ruled that the bidding process used to award huge contracts to private corporations was unfair and violated state rules.
  • There has been no valid documentation for claimed tax payer savings under the plan. We do, know, however, that administrative costs for our Medicaid program will substantially increase.
  • Every major newspaper in the state has publicly and repeatedly opposed the Branstad Medicaid Privatization Plan.
  • One hundred and fifteen Iowa hospitals, with bipartisan representation on their local boards, from 99 Iowa counties, have filed a lawsuit in the Iowa district court seeking a court-ordered injunction to stop implementation of the privatization scheme.
  • And, both state and federal government officials–Republicans and Democrats, have voiced their concerns as well.

Culver is holding his meetings at 10 a.m. at the Coralville Library, and at 2 p.m. at the Cedar Rapids Library.

Culver lives in West Des Moines and is the founder of the Chet Culver Group, which is described as “a renewable energy and infrastructure consultancy that works with individuals and public and private sector entities to provide strategic consulting, cut through red tape and promote cutting-edge ideas that will move the country forward.”


Governor: Democrat attempts to stop Medicaid privatization are ‘outrageous, political’

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad isn’t happy that Democrats in the Iowa Senate are pushing a bill that would stop the Republican Branstad’s plan to move the 560,000 Medicaid patients in Iowa into private managed care plans.

Former Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, is holding two town meetings in eastern Iowa Tuesday to talk about the issue.

“Well I’m disappointed that Senate Democrats and former Governor Culver would make this a partisan political issue,” Branstad says. “I would point out that when the Lieutenant Governor and I were elected, Culver used over 440 million dollars of one-time money for Medicaid. The Medicaid program was in jeopardy because there were not ongoing funds being used to sustain it. We dug out of that big hole that he created.”

Branstad says Democrats are trying to torpedo a “thoughtful, systematic approach” to modernizing Medicaid. “I think it’s outrageous, political and that kind of partisanship should have no place in trying to deliver the best healthcare to the citizens of Iowa,” Branstad says. He says the privatization is something 39 other states have done and shown to be successful over the way things have been done.

“We feel an obligation to provide the best medical services to the people of Iowa, and to do it in a way that coordinates those services. We’ve seen the experiences of other states that have improved health. We’ve increase the number of people on Medicaid, but their health has not gotten better.” Branstad says.

Branstad’s administration originally planned to start switching the program on January 1st, but federal officials who oversee the Medicaid program ordered a 60-day delay.

(Note: this story was update to correct the time of the Culver events from Monday to Tuesday)


Branstad says economic signals cause for concern

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Uncertainty remains about the farm economy and the state’s future budget situation, causing the Governor Terry Branstad to think over his options.

Branstad ordered state worker furloughs and across-the-board cuts in the state budget during the depths of the Farm Crisis. “But I’ve learned that’s not the way to do things,” Branstad says.

So, if Iowa’s economy craters and the state budget plan is headed toward red ink this fall or next winter, Branstad will call lawmakers back to Des Moines for a special legislative session.

“If we really run into financial problems, I’m going to bring the legislature back to address it,” Branstad says, slapping his hands together, “because if they create the problem, they’re going to have to address it.”

Branstad says this is a “tough year, financially” for the state, as tax collections have failed to meet expectations.

“This is a challenging time,” Branstad says. “The stock market started out the year the worst, I guess in history — the first month — and then we have the farm situation and the fact that commodity prices are below the price of production. Hog prices are bad as well as corn and soybeans. There’s reason to be concerned.”

And Branstad points to last week’s announcement that ADM may try to sell its ethanol plant in Cedar Rapids because of weak profits.

Branstad made his comments late last week during an interview with Radio Iowa.


Congressman King responds to ‘fury’ over Caucus Night (AUDIO)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King today said there is “fury…boiling over” about the results of Iowa’s Caucuses, but King said he had “no ill intent” with his tweet on Caucus night that it looked like Ben Carson was dropping out of the presidential race.

Carson backers say King — who backs Ted Cruz — misled some Carson supporters into switching to Cruz.

“If I had it to do over again knowing what I know now, I would not have issued that information, however accurate it was,” King told Radio Iowa. “But knowing when I knew then, having reviewed the chronology or had access to, I would be compelled to do the same thing given the information that I had.”

King said he had a 45-minute private meeting with Carson Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. and the two emerged as friends.

“My understanding of that conversation is that Ben is satisfied, as am I,” King said early this afternoon.

Donald Trump has said Cruz and King cheated by telling Iowans heading into the caucuses that Carson was dropping out. Governor Terry Branstad has gone so far as to use the word “unethical” to describe King’s actions. King said Branstad was “out of line” to openly call for the defeat of Cruz in the Caucuses because of Cruz’s opposition to the federal ethanol production mandate.

“So now we have a governor making remarks publicly about my ethics?” King asked rhetorically during his interview with Radio Iowa. “I think he should go back and examine the ethics of the ARF organization that’s headed by his son and examine the motives of those people.”

America’s Renewable Future is a Super PAC headed by Eric Branstad, the governor’s oldest son, and it campaigned against Cruz. King acknowledges that it appears there is now a rift within the Iowa GOP.

“It’s too bad that there are those that want to try to start a fire and throw gas on it and to disparage the Ted Cruz victory and actually it drags us all down,” King said. “And I would like to think that especially the high-profile Republicans in the state are more prudent than that and it doesn’t look like they’re demonstrating that this week, at least. Maybe next week.”

King said Iowans “can be proud” of the results from Monday night and he’s willing to take the “arrows” being directed his way.

“The American people — and Iowans in particular — we like to take some pride in being very vigorous competitors, but also we ought to take some pride in being able to accept the loss as long as we did all we can do morally and ethically and vigorously to achieve our objectives,” King said. “And if the people that did not achieve their objectives aren’t able to look at their effort that way, I think that would explain some of the fury that’s boiling over here.”

AUDIO of King’s interview with Radio Iowa

(A previous version of this story indicated King had no regrets about his Tweet, but the congressman has contacted Radio Iowa this afternoon to indicate he had “no ill intent” in sending the Tweet.)

Commission likely to consider changes in Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

The man who managed President Obama’s 2012 reelection effort in Iowa expects Iowa Democratic Party leaders will convene a commission to propose possible changes in the party’s presidential caucus procedures.

Brad Anderson says Democrats should consider having straw poll ballots, just like Republicans do at their Caucuses.

“The one thing that is troubling is in a close race there should be some kind of recount procedure and right now because of the way it’s done on the Democratic side, it’s just not possible,” Anderson says. “We don’t have ballots.”

Democrats decide the winner of their caucuses by counting the number of delegates each presidential candidate wins — and there are complex calculations for determining those “delegate equivalents”.

“We need to form a commission that takes a look at it in the same way that Republicans did in 2012,” Anderson says. “I think there are very fair questions, but I think at the end of the day this process is one that makes Iowa the center of attention and we have always handled the spotlight fairly well.”

The Iowa Republican Party tinkered with the rules for its caucuses after Mitt Romney was declared the winner on Caucus Night, Rick Santorum won a “canvas” of most precincts 10 days later and Ron Paul had the most delegates at the party’s national convention. Anderson, who backed Hillary Clinton in the Caucuses, says there are specific things that need to be addressed by Iowa Democrats, like the “logistical challenges” that were evident on Monday night.

“Certainly, some of these precincts have just gotten too big,” Anderson says.

For example, Anderson went to his precinct on Caucus Night, but the crowd was too big for the elementary school gymnasium — so people were sent outside to conduct the caucus in the school’s parking lot.

Craig Robinson, a Republican activist who once served as the political director for the Republican Party of Iowa, says the two parties should collaborate on technology, so — for example — people aren’t filling out paper voter registration forms on Caucus Night.

“I think the parties need to work together for the next four years, not just in the year of the caucus,” Robinson says. “…There needs to be some existing infrastructure built.”

Robinson attended his GOP precinct caucus in Ankeny, where 200 people were forced to fill out the paperwork to change their voter registration before the caucus could start. Robinson says the use of technology would help speed that process.

Robinson and Anderson made their comments today during taping of “Iowa Press” which airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.

Governor: school spending decision won’t happen quickly

School-BusGovernor Terry Branstad is predicting legislators will have a tough time making a school funding decision this year.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen quickly because there’s some big issues to be resolved,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during an interview Thursday.

Legislative leaders from both parties have been saying they hope to strike a quick compromise on school funding for the academic year that starts this fall. Branstad says budget realities may prevent that.

“There’s some big issues to be resolved,” Branstad said. “…This is a tough year, financially.”

House Republicans propose a two percent boost in general state aid for K-12 public schools in Iowa. Branstad last month recommended nearly half a percent more than that.

Democrats who control the Iowa Senate are seeking a four percent increase. Last year, the legislature made its decision about school funding in June — about four weeks before the budgeting year began.

Democrats seeking stop to Medicaid privatization

Pam Jochum

Pam Jochum

Democrats in the Iowa Senate plan to pass a bill that would stop Governor Branstad’s plan to move the 560,000 Medicaid patients in Iowa into private managed care plans.

“We have introduced that bill because our constituents have told us over and over again that the governor’s plan is failing,” says Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque. “He has tried to do too much, too fast and as a result he has failed to protect vulnerable Iowans.”

The Branstad Administration originally planned to start the switch on January 1, but federal officials who oversee the Medicaid program ordered a 60-day delay. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says many Iowa Medicaid patients can’t figure out if their doctor has signed up with one of the three managed care companies or if they’ll be forced to switch to a new doctor.

“This thing’s a mess right now. The roll-out has been horrible: wrong phone numbers, people that can’t get their questions answered,” Gronstal says. “…It’s a disaster.”

Republicans are defending the new system and making clear the effort by Democrats to stop the switch will go nowhere in the Iowa House where Republicans have a majority of votes. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, suggests Democrats are stoking the chaos.

“I’m hearing many people with question,” Upmeyer says. “And the reason we’re having so many questions is because we’re spending our time protecting the status quo instead of moving forward.”

Change is a challenge, but one that should be embraced, according to Upmeyer. Upmeyer says the governor’s staff has assured her the state is complying with the federal government’s checklist and the program will be ready for the switch on March 1.