The rising cost of health insurance has been an ongoing problem nationwide and Iowa is no exception. Since Obamacare, passed there has been a major reduction in options for coverage in the insurance market. The ability of the Iowa Legislature to fix these issues has been reduced by all the new federal rules, but there are currently a couple changes being worked on that hopefully will have a positive impact.

In January, the House Commerce committee heard from the insurance commissioner on the state of the individual health insurance market in the state of Iowa. There was and continues to be an immediate concern for 20,000 Iowans, who have no health insurance because they are priced out of the individual health insurance exchanges. At the federal level, Congress has refused to take meaningful action to correct the ACA, which fundamentally changed the health insurance environment in the United States.

Recently, the House Commerce committee took a first step to provide Iowans with some relief from unaffordable health care products on the individual market by providing another option. The committee considered HSB 637, which would provide the option of purchasing a health benefit plan. These plans would be sponsored and administered by Iowa based organizations. Health benefit plans act like insurance and are subject to oversight by the insurance commissioner. It is estimated that for individuals who do not qualify for a subsidy, these plans would be less than half the cost of plans available on the individual exchange.

The Commerce committee passed HSB 637 out of committee and on to the full House for consideration. Another bill that is being worked on that may have a positive impact on cost is HSB 585.

Currently, insurance companies are not allowed to recover money they lose as a result of fraudulent claims. Insurance fraud is an $80 billion per year problem in the United States and creates higher premiums for customers. HSB 585 gives insurers the ability to recover some of these funds lost to fraud, which should help drive down insurance premiums for customers.

We are working to provide relief to Iowans suffering from unaffordable health insurance, even though our options are now limited by federal law.

Security Options in Schools

With the latest news of another school shooting occurring in the U.S. last week, questions often turn to what options those in Iowa schools have for safety and security. This article provides some information on what schools can implement, how they can fund security enhancements, and what legislatively might be coming down the pipeline.

Can schools have armed security?

Yes, they can. While fire arms are prohibited on school grounds per Iowa Code 724.4B, there are exceptions. 724.4B makes carrying any firearms, even concealed, a class D felony. The exceptions include police officers, those specifically authorized by the school (such as for training purposes), or a licensed private investigator or security agent.

These exceptions allow schools to have someone hired to provide security, or of course to have an agreement with the local police to have an officer assigned to the school as a School Resource Officer (SRO).

Do districts have options for outfitting their schools with security features?

Districts have a few options besides their general fund for upgrading or adding security features to their schools.

- Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) – PPEL consists of a board-approved portion (33 cents per $1,000 of valuation) and a voter-approved portion ($1.34 per $1,000 of valuation). Per Iowa code 298.3, districts can use them for the construction of buildings and to repair, remodel, improve, or expand buildings, all of which could include adding security features.

- Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) – a state-wide 1-cent sales tax that is sent to school districts for infrastructure purposes. The use of those funds overlaps with PPEL uses.

What’s happening legislatively?

Currently the Senate is working on a bill, Senate File 2364, which would require school districts to have in place an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) by next year. Many districts already have such a plan in place, but not all do. The bill would require that the development of the plan include consultation with local law enforcement and local emergency management coordinators.

The piece is similar to a bill that advanced in the House last year, House File 515, which placed the same requirements on districts as SF 2364, but also required a task force to convene to develop best practices which districts could utilize when developing their EOPs.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.

Home phone: 515-382-2352