Capitol update

Rural Iowa big winner under House GOP budget plan
Phil Thompson

~by  Rep Phil Thompson

March 15, 2019

Growing and supporting rural Iowa is a primary focus of the 2019 session. House Republicans have been working on several fronts to give our communities the opportunity to grow and thrive in the 21st century. The FY20 budget reflects that in two key areas – health care and education.

HEALTH CARE – Access to health care is a critical issue for our state. For rural communities, the challenge of maintaining that access is even more challenging. To address this, my colleagues and I are moving forward with the following initiatives:

Maintaining access to health care through Iowa’s critical access hospitals – Iowa’s 82 critical access hospitals, including Greene County Medical Center and Boone County Hospital, provide critical, initial care in our communities and are linked to a larger hospital system for more extensive care. Our budget proposal restores Medicaid payment rates to these hospitals to 101 percent of costs, with a cost settlement process at the end of the year. Hospital administrators have expressed that the number one thing I could do for rural health care was to restore this process. My colleagues and I are making that a key priority in our budget by committing $1.5 million from the General Fund.

Ensuring access to nursing homes throughout Iowa for lower-income residents – In many rural communities, the local nursing home is a critical part of the local health care system. With the growing number of nursing home residents whose care is covered by Medicaid, nursing homes are facing tighter operating budgets. To ensure Iowans have local access to this important level of care, we are proposing an additional $19 million of General Fund dollars to Iowa’s Medicaid program for the daily nursing home payment rate.

More healthcare providers in rural Iowa – Having trained health care providers is necessary to having functioning hospitals and nursing homes across Iowa. Attracting health care providers to rural communities sometimes requires pointed incentives to prospective new practitioners. House File 532 would require that medical students raised in Iowa or educated in the state to get preference for medical residencies through UIHC or funded by the state. Also, anyone participating in a medical residency would be offered a residency rotation in a rural community.

We are also proposing an additional $400,000 for medical residency programs to those who will practice in rural Iowa and increase funding for the Rural Primary Loan Repayment program by $300,000. This program helps communities attract and retain newly-licensed doctors.

EDUCATION & WORKFORCE – Growing Iowa’s rural communities will require a workforce with necessary skills. Acquiring these skills can happen in high school, community colleges, or four-year colleges and universities. We are addressing these issues in the following ways:

Committing to Future Ready Iowa – Ensuring Iowans have the job skills needed by Iowa’s employers is one of the biggest issues facing this state. We have committed to fund implementation of the Future Ready Iowa program that was created last year with $15 million for assisting community college students with the Last Dollar Scholar program. Additionally, $1 million will go to help people that started four-year degrees in certain fields to go back to college and finish them.

Increasing access to job skills in high school – Acquiring the necessary technical skills for many high-demand jobs can happen at the high school level through the state’s Career Technical Education program. We will provide an additional $355,823 to assist more schools in establishing these programs.

Continuing Iowa’s investment in community colleges, tuition grants and All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarships – Community Colleges will receive an additional $7 million in FY 2020 under the House Republican plan, and the Iowa Tuition Grant program (which provides aid to those attending Iowa’s independent colleges) will get a $1.1 million increase. The budget also will provide additional funding for the All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarships, which help Iowa residents attend the three state universities.
It’s an honor to serve as your Representative. Please weigh in on any issue or budgetary needs by emailing me at phil.thompson [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov or by calling 515-281-3221.

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