Category: View Point

ViewPoint: Two Things You Need to Know Before Enrolling in Medicare

The Iowa Insurance Division’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) talks to thousands of Iowans every year about enrolling in Medicare.
“There is a lot of information for Iowans to digest when they are deciding whether to enroll in Medicare,” Kris Gross, director of SHIIP said. “The top two misconceptions we hear from Iowans are that there is a requirement to sign up for Medicare Part A at age 65 and to enroll in Medicare Part B even if the person is continuing to work and has employer health insurance. Neither is true.”
Iowans with questions about Medicare may call SHIIP at 800-351-4664 (TTY 800-735-2942) or visit www.therightcalliowa.gov. SHIIP counselors are available in communities across Iowa and are available to help answer your questions and assist with problems you have concerning Medicare and related health insurance. SHIIP is a service of the State of Iowa Insurance Division. All services are free, confidential and objective.
Correct information about the top two misconceptions that SHIIP hears from Iowans are below.
First Misconception: You’re required to sign up for Medicare Part A at age 65. (This is not true.)
If you or your spouse continue to work and have insurance from this work, you are not required to enroll in Medicare. Medicare Part A is free for most people because of their FICA contributions while employed. For this reason, people usually sign up for Part A when they become eligible.
However, since Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) with high deductible health plans have become more popular as an employee health benefit, automatically signing up for Part A needs to be reconsidered and may not be in your best interest. If you continue to work and enroll in Medicare Part A and/or B, you and your employer can no longer make contributions to the HSA. There may be a tax penalty if you do. You can use the money in your HSA but you cannot make new contributions.
Even if your current employer does not offer a HSA, delaying Part A keeps this option open for potential future employment. Keep in mind, those entitled to free Part A will automatically be enrolled once you start receiving your Social Security benefit.
Remember, if you delay enrollment, when you finally do apply for Medicare the effective date of Part A may be back dated up to six months from the date you apply. To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your HSA the month to which your Part A is back dated.
Second Misconception: I need to enroll in Medicare Part B even if I continue to work and have employer health insurance. (This is not true.)
A person who is actively employed with health insurance from that employer, can delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without a penalty until they quit working—no matter the employer size. Large employers must pay primary (first) while the person is working and Medicare pays secondary. Small employers do not have to pay primary.
Often workers are told the small employer insurance will continue to cover them, not understanding that the language in their employer health insurance may require they enroll in Medicare. If they don’t, the policy will pay secondary to Medicare even if they don’t enroll. It is very important to talk to the insurance company providing your employer coverage to verify if Medicare enrollment is necessary because the plan will only pay after Medicare pays.

ViewPoint: Small Businesses are the Backbone of Rural Communities

By Rhea Landholm, Center for Rural Affairs
Small scale entrepreneurship is a proven strategy to revitalize rural communities. Owning one’s own business can create genuine opportunity across rural America with the support of a modest public investment.
The importance of entrepreneurship is particularly profound in the most rural areas. Our analysis of economic conditions in the farm and ranch counties of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas found that nearly 60 percent of job growth in the 1990s came from people creating their own job by starting a small non farm business.
Small entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in these communities. This strategy also has the capacity to bring back young people – including those who earn a college degree. Our surveys of rural youth in northeast Nebraska found that half would like to someday own their own farm or business. That opportunity has the potential to draw them back to rural America.
Small business development helps rural people acquire assets and create wealth. That is essential. Asset and wealth-building through home ownership, business ownership and enhanced education lead to important long-term psychological and social effects that cannot be achieved by simply increasing income.
Businesses and houses bond one to a place and help to build sustainable communities. A commitment to rural asset- and wealth-building strategies can lead to stronger individuals, families and communities.
Small business are also very philanthropic. In a 2015 survey, an estimate of nearly half of all small businesses gave to charity with 90 percent of donations supporting local causes.
As part of National Small Business Week, April 30 to May 6, the Small Business Administration will offer free webinars. Find out more at https://www.sba.gov/nsbw/webinars.
You can find more information and resources at http://www.cfra.org.

ViewPoint: District 72 Update – April 12, 2017

By Representative Dean Fisher
On April 3, many of us legislators visited Kemin Industries, a world-wide food ingredients manufacturer that is headquartered just a short distance from the capitol building. They employ 2,500 worldwide, including 700 in Iowa. Kemin Industries is a remarkable company, in that they are near their goal of “touching” nearly half of the world’s population with their products every single day. This statistic is calculated by tracking the uses of their ingredients in food products for both humans and animals. They specialize in producing food additive ingredients from natural plants, not chemically.
One of their most successful product lines is Lutein, which is derived from Marigolds grown in India and then processed in Des Moines. Lutein is what makes carrots orange, egg yolks yellow, and is essential for eye health. Lutein is also used as an additive for chicken feed, to ensure a yellow skin, and as a dietary supplement for humans. Kemin Industries produces many other mineral supplements, flavor enhancers, mold inhibitors, and antioxidants for human and animal consumption. I am frequently astounded at the breadth and depth of technology that Iowa offers the world in our corporations and universities.
Last week, we debated Senate File 471, the Late Term Abortion Ban bill which bans abortions after the baby is past five months post-fertilization with exceptions for the life and health of the mother. The House has amended this senate bill to include additional requirements including adding a 72 hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed and strengthening requirements for showing an ultrasound of the baby to the mother before the abortion is performed. This amendment requires the bill to return to the Senate for approval. With the passage of this bill, Iowa will join 23 other states that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. This bill is the most substantial pro-life legislation to protect the life of the unborn in Iowa history.
Budget targets have been set for the various departments. For fiscal year 2018, we will be spending $7.245 billion against the Revenue Estimating Conference committee’s revenue estimate of $7.364 billion. It is rare to see the state spend less than the year before. This fact reflects the difficulties we are experiencing with revenue growth and the revenue estimate accuracy. While a 1.7% reduction in spending against the revenue estimate is a good start, I don’t feel it leaves us with enough of a buffer against inaccuracies in the revenue estimate. I’d rather see a 3% buffer, given the fact that in the past four years we’ve seen actual revenue come in below the estimate by 1.5% to 3.5%.
The House has passed Senate File 230, a bill that moves the legislature’s health care plan options into the executive branch category, ultimately requiring legislators to pay a higher share of the premiums. The legislature will now pay the same premium as full time executive branch employees. The change will save the state roughly $235,000 per year, another win for Iowa’s taxpayers.
As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.

District 72 Update – March 29, 2017

By Rep. Dean Fisher
Homeschool day at the capitol brought many homeschooling families to the Capitol to learn more about their government. I had the pleasure of meeting with several families from Tama and Marshall counties in the House chamber.
I also received a visit from a group of eight Foreign Exchange students and their coordinator, Sharon Scherrer of Traer. These students are attending schools throughout Black Hawk and Tama counties, and come to us from Kosovo, Morocco, Bahrain, Kenya, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Armenia.
During this session the House Republicans have focused strongly on improving the viability of our public schools, not by simply throwing more money at them, but by making shifts in policy that will help our schools operate more efficiently.
One of our first orders of business was to pass a $40 million increase for our public schools, and we got that done in the first 30 days. We also reformed the timeline for when funding is set. Prior law required school funding to be set 18 months in advance of the school year, whereas the new law requires the funding to be set the first 30 days of the session, less than six months in advance. It has become clear that revenue estimates are too volatile to set budgets 18 months in advance. This reform will give our schools the certainty they need in budgeting and the legislature more confidence that it fits within the budget.
Two bills have been passed that will give schools more financial flexibility. House Republicans recognize that no two schools are alike, which is why we passed House Files 564 and 565 to allow greater leeway in how local school boards and administrators use funds that are restricted for specific uses by the state. The use of these funds have now been expanded, and if they are unused they can be transferred to a new Flexibility Fund. Those funds are subject to approval by the school board before they can be diverted for other uses. House Republicans worked closely with the school boards and superintendents to craft these changes.
We also passed a Home Rule bill that will provide school districts with greater opportunity to innovate. Under current law, schools have been governed under “Dillon’s Law” which only allows them power expressly granted by the state. House File 573 will allow them the power to exercise flexibility in areas not addressed in state law, the opposite of Dillon’s Law. Home Rule is already provided for cities and counties, so this is a well proven concept in our local government.
We have several more bills still in the works that address issues with our schools. There are inequities in the per-pupil school funding formula that results in some school districts being able to spend up to $175 per student more than another school. We also have rural schools that have transportation costs that reach as high as $1,050 per pupil, while some urban schools have transportation costs of a few hundred dollars. This means the rural schools can have significantly less funds for the classroom. We hope to address these inequities as the budget allows.
House File 571, a bill I filed, was brought to the floor for debate and passed on a 99-0 vote. This bill makes 911 calls and other call recordings to an Emergency Management Agency confidential if they deal with an adult’s medical information, or if the call is concerning a juvenile, protecting this information from Freedom of Information Act requests. All other medical information for a person is currently protected under privacy laws, and the fact that 911 calls were not was an egregious gap in the law. The bill also includes a provision for keeping information about a juvenile who commits a crime confidential. It is only right that we also keep information confidential when a juvenile is injured or otherwise involved in an emergency. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.

ViewPoint: Iowa Corn Growers Respond to Dismissal of Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit

By Iowa Corn Growers Association President Kurt Hora
A federal district judge has dismissed in its entirety the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against the Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista drainage districts in northwest Iowa. The federal Clean Water Act claim was dismissed for lack of standing considering the drainage districts’ limited status under Iowa law.
This is good news for our state. The lawsuit has been a distraction to the implementation of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which was started in 2013. This favorable outcome will allow Iowa farmers to continue to advance our efforts of improving soil and water conservation without the inflexibility of burdensome regulations.
As farmers, we want the safest, best quality water for Iowa. We believe a positive, collaborative approach is key to improving our state’s water quality. The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) and our farmer-members will continue to use cooperation and collaboration in proactively improving our water quality. Through our work with the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, the Soil Health Partnership and our many other partnerships, activities, and programs, we are helping accelerate the adoption of practices outlined in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
For more information on how Iowa Corn is leading the way on water quality, go to www.iowacorn.org/water.

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