Health care, cameras and micromanagement

Feds reject part of governor's health coverage plan, but Branstad does the same to local governments

Todd Dorman
Published: December 12 2013 | 6:05 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:44 am in
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So Gov. Terry Branstad is getting a taste of micromanagement from above.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services signed off on much of Iowa’s plan to provide health insurance to low-income adults. It’s Iowa’s alternative to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Good news, especially for people who need coverage.

But the feds rejected a provision sought by the governor that would have charged small premiums to recipients with incomes below the poverty line, premiums that would be waived if folks took part in wellness activities.

Branstad won that provision as part of a hard-fought compromise with legislative Democrats, ending a Statehouse stalemate. It was approved by a divided Legislature and signed into law by the governor. The overall plan is a fine example of bipartisan cooperation in our gridlocked times.

But on premiums, the federal government substituted its judgment for the state’s. A disappointment for Branstad.

And yet, I don’t feel too bad for the governor. For one thing, he got most of what he wanted.

For another, it was also on Tuesday that his administration substituted its judgment for that of local leaders who installed traffic enforcement cameras in their cities. Branstad’s appointed director of the Department of Transportation, Paul Trombino, pushed the governor-appointed Transportation Commission to approve new state regulatory hoops for those cities to jump through. And those hoops look an awful lot like snares.

Again, with feeling, I’m not a big camera fan. And, clearly, the DOT has the power to govern state roads, including highways that run through cities.

But a department that regularly warns of the dangers of speeding, and that currently is searching under every couch cushion in Iowa for revenue to cover its own budget needs, is now appalled that speeders are getting camera tickets and cities are collecting revenue.

I keep hearing and reading that these cameras are “controversial.” Maybe elsewhere, but we just had a city election in Cedar Rapids where the issue barely rated a mention. State officials insist this isn’t a ban. But the governor favors a ban. So how do you think folks who work for that governor will enforce these rules?

They’ll micromanage. That’s not surprising, considering that micromanagement is Branstad’s default position when it comes to local governments. He just doesn’t like it when the feds do it.

And yet, when he was given a chance to create a state health insurance exchange, Branstad, so certain that the courts or an election or maybe a meteor would stop Obamacare, decided to leave it all up to the feds. So Iowans got stuck with I bet they’re disappointed, too.


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