Category Archives: View Point

View Point: Standing Up for Rural Postal Delivery – September 2, 2015

By Marie Powell, mariep@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

Post offices are crucial anywhere, but especially crucial in rural areas that depend on the postal service to stay connected through news delivery, services crucial to businesses, and, in some communities, a link to prescription drugs and other services.
The mail service is a national treasure that has been in operation for 240 years. Every day, the Postal Service provides affordable, universal mail service to all – without using taxpayer dollars for its operation.
The Center for Rural Affairs has signed letters of support for continuing reliable, affordable 6-day mail delivery from the US Postal Service. Particularly for remote rural citizens, the service is a lifeline. Nearly 10,000 people have signed the pledge.
We also signed letters of support for two bi-partisan measures in the House of Representatives. One, HR 54, would restore service standards to those in use before last January’s reductions. The combination of reduced service standards and closing mail processing facilities has left rural Americans and businesses experiencing the worst of mail delays.
The other House measure (HR 12) calls for maintaining 6-day mail service across the country. Small towns and rural communities in particular depend on this service as a link to prescription drugs and other vital services. Both measures passed in the House.
To pledge your support to save our public postal service visit: http://agrandalliance.org/pledge/ OR http://www.cfra.org/standing-rural-postal-delivery.

View Point: The Importance of Back-to-school Physicals – August 19, 2015

It’s that time of year again. In a few short weeks, students will return to the classroom, and back-to-school preparations are in full swing. Readying your child for a successful school year involves more than simply purchasing the trendiest clothes and supplies.
One of the first steps in ensuring students have a safe and healthy start to the year is taking them to get a back-to-school physical examination. These exams, also known as well-checks, are especially important because they are often the only time a child visits the doctor each year. Physical exams not only detect potential health problems before they arise, but they can also provide an assurance of good health.
Back-to-school physicals typically consist of:

Routine Physical: During a routine physical, the physician will record your child’s height and weight, blood pressure and pulse. In addition, the physician will perform a comprehensive check of your child’s heart and lungs, abdomen, skin, eyes and ears, nose, mouth, teeth and throat to ensure that no abnormalities exist.

Medical History Review: The doctor will review the medical history of your child and any close relatives to detect illnesses or diseases which might run in the family. This portion of the exam will also include listing any medications your child is taking, as well as previous or current illnesses.

Preventative Screenings: Through routine examinations and blood tests, doctors have the opportunity to monitor a child’s overall wellness and screen for problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes and lead poisoning.

Immunizations: Children are required to receive certain immunizations before entering public schools. Back-to-school physicals are the perfect time to make sure that your child is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations.

As the first day of school approaches, finding time for a visit to the doctor may become difficult. Therefore, it’s important to schedule your child’s physical exam as soon as possible. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield makes it easy to locate a physician in your area with its online “Find a Doctor” search tool. Searches can be filtered based upon a doctor’s location, specialty and health insurance plans accepted. To access this tool, and to learn more about health insurance, visit www.wellmark.com.

View Point: Celebrating Medicare’s 50th – August 5, 2015

By Janice Laue, President
Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans

July 30, 2015, saw the 50th birthday of Medicare, a program that is a cornerstone of retirement security in America. This landmark occasion is the perfect time to examine the legacy of the program and reflect upon the positive impact it has had on the lives and health of our nation’s retirees.
Before President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, growing older often meant poverty and illness. Only half of our nation’s seniors had health insurance. While some retirees received health coverage through union contracts, millions more faced premiums as much as three times that paid by younger workers. Insurance was a luxury that many seniors simply couldn’t afford.
Older Americans were often faced with a choice between protecting their health and protecting their savings. Would they risk poverty or go without treatment altogether? An estimated one in four retirees used to go without necessary care due to cost concerns. Around one in three seniors lived out their older years in poverty. Many were forced to lean on friends and family to provide care and financial support during times of illness.
After Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, retired workers, regardless of income or health history, had guaranteed health coverage for the first time. Today, seniors across the country are able to see a doctor and fill a prescription because of the Medicare program. Medicare has been so successful that today’s seniors are more likely to have health coverage than any other segment of the population.
The success of the Medicare program is clear. It has vastly improved the quality of life for millions of older Americans. It has kept millions of seniors from being thrown into poverty by the high cost of medical bills. In fact, the poverty rate for seniors has gone down by 75% since Medicare was signed into law. Medicare provides a critical lifeline that protects the health and economic security of our nation’s seniors and their families.
Today, this lifeline is under attack. Some politicians in Washington are pushing to dismantle the Medicare program and roll back the clock 50 years. They want to cut Medicare benefits for seniors, funnel money into the pockets of private insurance companies, and put an end to Medicare’s guaranteed coverage.
The Alliance for Retired Americans is celebrating Medicare’s 50th birthday by bringing attention to its great success and informing current and future seniors on threats to the program. We will educate seniors on the candidates’ positions in the 2016 elections and debunk the misinformation spread by corporate-backed lobby groups, politicians, and commentators.

View Point – Federal Crop Insurance – July 29, 2015

Federal Crop Insurance Gets Failing Grade

By John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we’ve heard from farmers across the Midwest and Great Plains about the negative impacts of federally subsidized crop insurance for over a decade. A farm safety net is important to help family farmers mitigate risks, but there are real concerns with the current crop insurance program. The best way to begin addressing those concerns is through honest assessment of the crop insurance system.
Toward that end, the Center for Rural Affairs recently released a crop insurance report card, entitled: Promises vs. Performance: A Report Card Evaluating Federal Crop Insurance. Most of the grades awarded are not what parents would hope to see on their own child’s school report, and the accompanying Policy Brief offers further analysis and recommended reforms to improve the performance of the crop insurance system. In overall performance, crop insurance received a failing grade (www.cfra.org/crop-insurance-reform).
Subsidizing the nation’s largest and wealthiest farms on every acre, every year, regardless of crop prices, production or farm profitability, puts America’s natural resources at risk. And, absent reform, crop insurance gives mega-farms an advantage in bidding up land costs, driving their smaller neighbors out of business, and preventing the next generation of farmers from ever getting started.
The impact crop insurance will have on future years of farming practices is significant, making reform of the federally subsidized crop insurance system vitally important to the future of rural and small town America.

ViewPoint: In the Statehouse – A Few Words About Education Funding

By Dawn Pettengill

After the Governor’s vetoes, the first session of the 86th General Assembly is over and it was a grueling year. We worked a month over without pay and most of what we did in that month to find a bipartisan compromise, the Governor vetoed. You can imagine how the Legislature feels about that – believe me, it is not good.
On education, there was a bi-partisan agreement to give a 1.25% raise to the per pupil cost and an additional $55 million to help with problems we were told districts needed help with, like transportation costs, books and curriculum. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the $55 million. We had a balanced budget and it was under his original budget. I have to admit, his veto explanation was not sufficient for me.
Speaking of EDUCATION FUNDING. We need to set the record straight on the misinformation that’s out there. Here it is:
THE STATE DID NOT CUT DOLLARS GOING TO EDUCATION. In the eleven years I’ve been there, the ONLY CUT to education was the 2010 Culver 10% Across the Board cut. In every other year, the schools received more ‘Per Pupil’ than they received the year before. When you ask for a 6% raise and get a 1.25% raise, only in ‘political speak to make the public mad’ is that a cut. And that is exactly what happened this year. The ask was for a 6% raise and we passed 1.25%, which amounts to an extra $80 per pupil.
The House passed the 1.25% on January 27, 2015. It was our first bill of the year. We also passed a 2% increase per pupil for the 2016/17 school year, but the Senate did not take the bill up. I am embarrassed and apologize to the schools for it taking so long to let them know how much they have to spend.
Please note, the state cost ‘per pupil’ is an important term, because that’s how we pay the schools. The tax dollar increases the state sent for every pupil in the last four school years are in the below chart.

Pettengill_EdFunding_chart

 

 

 

Because they have fewer pupils, many schools ARE receiving less money. Let’s take Vinton-Shellsburg for instance:

Pettengill_Vinton_chart

 

 

 

Vinton enrollment was estimated to be down another 63 students in FY15, bringing the number of students lost to 189 in 5 years. 189 students x $6,366 = $1.2 million less, but look at how their budget has went up in spite of the number of students going down.
Bottom LINE, the state IS sending more money. It may not be what was asked for, but it is more. And we pay PER STUDENT. If you have less students, you receive less. Unfortunately, the School Boards who have this situation will have to make some hard decisions and each school board will have different priorities based on their district’s situation. I’m sure you know at the state level, we send dollars in a lump to the school districts and they determine how to manage it.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion. If you have any questions or concerns, you can give me a call at 319-610-3412. That’s my cell phone. Or you can send a message to dawn.pettengill@legis.iowa.gov. I’m here for you!