A survey conducted for A.A.R.P. shows 80% of Iowans over the age of 50 support stronger oversight of the state’s nursing homes. Governor Branstad has recommended reducing the number of state inspectors and ombudsmen who investigate complaints of abuse or improper care in nursing homes.

A.A.R.P. state director Bruce Koeppl says the group’s members have met with Branstad and the new director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals to discuss the concerns identified in the survey. “We want to make sure that our most vulnerable Iowans are, you know, receiving the kind of care and have the oversight they need to make sure that the wrong corner isn’t cut,” Koeppl says.

Koeppl, however, is striking a conciliatory rather than confrontational tone, as he told reporters it appears Branstad and his top aides are open to addressing A.A.R.P.’s concerns as legislators draft a final budget plan. “We look forward to sort of discussing and negotiating as the budget process continues,” Koeppl says. Rod Roberts, the new director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, has cut the number of nursing home inspectors in the agency from 38 down to 28.

Three-quarters of the salaries of those inspectors is covered by federal funds, so the state will save an estimated $125,000 dollars with 10 fewer inspectors. Branstad complained during the campaign that the agency had a “gotcha attitude” toward the nursing home industry and he pledged to make changes.

Half of all the adults in Iowa are over the age of 50 and according to A.A.R.P. estimates, 100,000 more Iowans will need to enter a nursing home in the next five years.