We are slowly coming to the close of the 2011 Iowa Legislative Session. Much work is left to be done on the appropriations bills. Compromises must be reached between the House, Senate, and Governor. How long we remain in Des Moines will be determined by those negotiations.
Other important legislation needs to be addressed as well. The Agricultural Protection Act is still being worked on in the Senate. I am positive this bill will be amended and sent back to the House to be voted on as amended.
We also passed and sent to the House legislation to address property tax relief. While it may not have a major impact for small business owners, it is a start and a move in the right direction.
Another big issue that is overdue for an overhaul is how we handle Mental Health Care in Iowa. Iowa currently has 99 counties with 99 plans for mental health care. With these different plans come inconsistency in access, service and quality. All total, the state currently pays approximately $1.3 billion dollars on mental health services. It is time for Iowa to establish a statewide system of care that secures outcomes for the vulnerable and is accountable for the public.
The Iowa House has released details about its plan in House File 626. All mental health services currently delivered by the counties will be delivered by a managed care entity chosen through bid process. According to Iowa House Republicans, 80 percent of these services are already in a managed care program through the Iowa Access program. This equalizing of services across the state would ensure that whether you live in Harlan or Cedar Rapids you could expect the same set of services. Past iterations of the bill phased-in changes over several years. The House will unveil more details in the coming days and it is expected to pass in the Appropriations Committee this week.
The Governor’s office has another plan as do the Senate Democrats. Much work is left to be done when attempting to achieve the best possible outcome. Obviously, with so many plans, one thing is for sure – everyone agrees the current system is broken and if there was an easy fix it would already have been done.
We will continue to work towards making Iowa better for all of us.
State Senator Tim Kapucian