The Iowa Senate passed a number of bills this week that deliver on our promises to put hard-working Iowans first. I would like to highlight the two most significant.
SF 2272 – Welfare Verification Reform:
On Wednesday, we passed a bill that will reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in our welfare programs. Whenever politicians talk about reducing spending, the conversations often start with eliminating fraud and waste. Too often, politicians do not deliver.
The bill we passed this week will create a real-time verification system for our SNAP program, also known as food stamps. In 2019, the federal government issued a nearly $2 million fine to Iowa in response to errors and inconsistencies in how our state administers the SNAP program. Our error rate was almost double the national average and resulted in $40 million in overpayments by federal and state taxpayers.
The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency projects the change in the bill we passed will save approximately $12 million every year once fully implemented. By improving the verification system for the SNAP program, we will ensure the state has the resources to provide benefits those who need them and Iowans will know taxpayer-supported benefits are going only to those who are eligible.
SF 2338 – Medical Liability Reform:
Iowans tell me they are concerned about the accessibility of health care, especially maternity care in the more rural parts of the state. The federal government controls many health care-related issues, but there are some things we can control at the state level.
One reason for the shortage of doctors is that medical malpractice premiums for internal medicine, general surgery, and OB/GYN in Iowa are higher than our neighbors Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. (Data from Missouri and Illinois is harder to compare.) That matters to new doctors who face hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.
Studies show that caps on non-economic damages reduce malpractice insurance premiums for doctors. Lower premiums will make Iowa a more welcoming state for doctors, especially those who practice in specialty areas and have higher insurance costs due to their specialized expertise, like OB/GYN. Caps may also reduce the practice of defensive medicine, thereby lowering the overall cost of health care.
That is why I supported a bill this week to cap non-economic damages for medical malpractice at $750,000. This bill puts Iowa in line with 35 other states, including all but one of our neighboring states, that also cap non-economic damage awards for medical malpractice.
It is important that victims of medical malpractice receive just compensation for their injuries, which can sometimes last for the rest of a person’s life. That is why the bill does not limit economic damages (awarded for medical bills, lost wages, future medical treatment, and other quantifiable items) or punitive damages (awarded for egregious misconduct).
The Iowa General Assembly will consider hundreds of other bills and issues before it adjourns in the spring. Please reach me by email or social media to share your thoughts on things happening here at the capitol. I look forward to hearing what you think.