One of the things I hear about often in private conversations is the need to reform welfare programs is so that we can reduce fraud. This is something I (and many politicians) have campaigned on. Last year, Iowa was fined by the federal government due to the high rate of inconsistencies in the distribution of SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Iowa’s error rate for distribution of these federal fund was over 10% and almost double the national average. The result was that $40 million of taxpayer money went to people not eligible for the program.
This week the Senate passed SF 2272 which creates a real-time verification system using technology already available commercially. It will cross-check state databases for dual enrollment in public assistance programs, verify household assets, verify residency, and citizenship and confirm identity.
The result of SF 2272 will be a substantial savings of taxpayer dollars (estimated to be $12 million the first year) and will allow employees to focus their energy where it is most effective. It may encourage more Iowans to join the workforce. It will ensure that resources go to the truly needy.
What amazed me was the united and aggressive attacks on this effort by the Democrats. They were unconcerned that we could be giving benefits to people already getting the same assistance in another state. They resisted the idea that this bill will make confirmation of eligibility easier for qualified recipients. It should also result in better morale in the Department of Human Services as employees find their time used more effectively. This bill is the result of over three years of diligent research. I am proud to support SF 2272.
Healthcare is a concern for almost every Iowan. One of the major contributors to the difficulty in attracting doctors to Iowa is medical liability. It also plays a role in the cost of healthcare.
This week we passed SF 2338 which places a hard cap of $750,000 on non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. It was difficult to place a limit on this liability, but 34 states already have a cap. Of the states surrounding Iowa, two have the same $750,000 cap and four have a much lower cap. Our goal is to find a balance between the need for compensation for injury and the need to keep our health care industry intact.
We also passed SF 2118 which helps physicians in the Rural Physician Loan Repayment Program with refinancing and debt consolidation. In committee, we passed SF 2176 which would help veterinarians who locate in rural Iowa with their loan repayment. Both of these bills are intended to help Iowa attract graduates to consider the option of establishing themselves in rural Iowa.
Many more bills were discussed and passed this week in the Iowa Legislature. You can look up and read any of these bills for yourself. If you go to legis.iowa.gov there will be a box to enter a bill number or keyword. If you search for a bill, you can find the bill in its current form as well as who sponsored it and where it is in the process from subcommittee to final passage and signature by the governor.
I will be at townhall meetings on Friday, March 6 at these locations: Eagle Grove Library at 8:30 AM; Clarion Train Depot at 10:00 AM; Belmond City Hall at 1:00 PM. I will also be in Estherville, Saturday, March 7 at 10:00 AM in the Wellness Center, during the Farm, Home, and Living Show.