Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
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Keep it honest, take it personally

Keep it honest, take it personally

Gazette Column
Dubuque letter writer Barbara Rank struck a chord, according to a Washington Post headline. I have another assessment: Rank took it personally. Rank attended the Dubuque town hall event hosted by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. She heard her Congressman say it was time to end some “crazy” Affordable Care Act regulations, “such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.” The following day, as she walked through her community, she thought about that statement and other past controversies surrounding how taxpayer funds are used. Then, she penned a short, authentic response to Blum that she submitted as a letter to the editor. “I ask, why should I have to pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read? Why…
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Rural health programs face September deadline

Rural health programs face September deadline

Gazette Column
No doubt you’ve heard about the Women’s March and the March for Science. Let me tell you why more than 1,000 doctors marched on Washington earlier this month. Physicians and medical students converged on Capitol Hill to advocate for continued funding of teaching health centers, which offer medical residency programs in community settings. It’s one of the programs under the umbrella of the $7.2 billion Community Health Centers Fund, slated to end Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action. The combined programs support local access to medical care for thousands of Iowans and millions of Americans. They're especially vital for rural health. Teaching health centers — one of which is located in Des Moines — provide medical residency programs in community settings. Residents are trained in family and internal medicine, pediatrics,…
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Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Gazette Column
The new National Health Security Preparedness Index is out, and Iowans continue to lag behind in plans for the state’s most vulnerable. Across most of the 139 measures used to compile the index, Iowans fare well with rankings at or slightly above the national average. Iowa gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 — the same score it’s had for the past three years. But while Iowa has stagnated, other states have improved. The 7 that placed Iowa above the pack in 2014, now puts it in the middle. Drilling further down, it’s apparent that there is one section in particular where Iowans are lagging behind. Index authors labeled it as “Community Planning and Engagement Coordination,” which includes actions taken to develop and maintain supportive relationships among government…
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State won’t force my daughters

State won’t force my daughters

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past several years I’ve searched for a way to get my oldest daughter to move back to Iowa, and ways to keep my younger daughter in state. Thanks to the Iowa Legislature, I’m putting those plans on hold. There’s been plenty of “progress” this session that’s contributed to my decision. A full-throated denial of local control stands out, as do limitations on workers’ rights. But the final straw came this week when lawmakers decided that if my daughters become pregnant the state can force them to continue the pregnancy and give birth. It’s a decision that sickens me to my very core, and not just theoretically. I was one of those women who learned that a very much wanted child would not survive. I had to make the…
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Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
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Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Iowa HIV plan could help rural areas

Gazette Column
Comprehensive planning and data stockpiling by state officials is now a national case study on how to effectively meet the needs of rural residents with HIV. The details are part of a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Improving Health Outcomes Through Data Utilization,” which highlights six regional initiatives under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Work by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which receives a Part B grant through the Ryan White program, is Chapter One. The prominent placement is partly because Iowa is unusual in the world of HIV/AIDS outreach and care services. That is, about a third of state residents living with HIV/AIDS aren’t in urban areas. They’re scattered throughout the state, many in distinctly rural communities. These individuals often feel stigma regarding…
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Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Gazette Column
Raise your hand if you’ve been blocked on social media by an elected official. If my feed is any indication, quite a few Iowa hands just flew into the air. “My friend, so I thought, Rep. (Name Removed), deleted me as a friend on Facebook last night. I was having an open and civil discussion about the collective bargaining bill and he began deleting comments from myself and other state employees,” wrote one poster. Another note read, “Rep. (Name Removed) is blocking anyone that tags him on Twitter.” The representative’s Twitter account was deleted shortly afterward. Several other examples exist — 45 at my last count — but these two suffice. [caption id="attachment_488" align="alignleft" width="300"] (Social Media Photo Illustration by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Maybe some of this deleting and blocking…
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Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Last-minute public schedules benefit no one

Gazette Column
Are we witnessing the final throes of the “full Grassley” era? Some readers may remember the Congressional recess in the summer of 2009. As a reporter, I covered then Congressman Bruce Braley’s town hall forums, which were overrun with concerns about the Affordable Care Act. The reports I and other journalists filed about those meetings were peppered with words like “feisty,” “lively” and “contentious,” but still fell short of conveying the level of combativeness on display. Constituents got in each other’s faces as well as those of their representatives. A few cried. Some brandished signs. Others yelled. Nearly everyone arrived with an agenda, and a willingness to fight. That was the summer when U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, speaking at a forum in Winterset, made his infamous “pull the plug on…
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The high cost of staying alive

The high cost of staying alive

Gazette Column
Although it pains me to admit it, the truth is that I’m part of the horde of Americans who are very poor health care consumers. My husband is a pump-carrying Type 1 diabetic, which was previously known as Juvenile Diabetes because it typically manifests in children and young adults. His body produces no insulin, the hormone that moves glucose from the bloodstream to the rest of the body. Type 1 is the rarest form of diabetes — only about 5 percent of diabetics in the U.S. are Type 1 — and it is, in a word, nasty. He must constantly monitor and regulate his blood sugar levels to stave off complications like nerve damage, kidney disease, blindness, poor blood flow and more. Even so, there’s no guarantee such complications won’t…
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