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NEWS 3.2.23

UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health announced a potential merger today with another healthcare entity. The healthcare system signed a letter of intent with New Mexico-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services to explore the formation of a new company. The two intend to keep their own brands and deliver local care under a parent organization. Together they have 40,000 employees and about 3,000 doctors. A potential merger with UnityPoint and Sanford Health fell through in 2019.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections are on the way up again in Iowa. The full story from the Iowa Capital Dispatch can be found here.

About 142 people infected with COVID-19 were receiving inpatient treatment last week, according to the CDC.

That was a 6% increase from the previous week.

On Wednesday, the state reported more than 1,700 new infections among people who were not previously infected for the past week. That is a 10% increase.

Citing a lack of accuracy in the overall tracking of the virus, the state announced last week that it will reduce its public reporting of infections. Rather than maintain a dedicated webpage for COVID-19, Health and Human Services will publish information about those infections in its existing respiratory virus surveillance reports starting April 1. Those reports track such viruses as influenza and RSV.

State health officials also reported 29 new deaths among people who were infected by the coronavirus, for a total of 10,700 since the start of the pandemic.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley says a bill filed this week to ban same-sex marriage won’t move forward ahead of a key statehouse deadline tomorrow, which means it’s most likely dead for the session. Grassley also says a bill to ban all abortions won’t advance.

He says Republican leaders still want to wait for an Iowa Supreme Court decision on abortion before passing new restrictions.

“It’s not going to see any action. I wouldn’t look at that as any sort of broad framework that’s been laid out by leadership by any means. But I think it’s very clear we have members of our caucus that are very passionate about the issue and protecting the unborn.”

An Iowa Supreme Court decision on abortion rights is expected later this spring or in early summer. Democratic leaders say Republicans probably won’t be able to resist banning abortion this session.

A Republican proposal that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors has passed out of a Senate committee ahead of a legislative deadline.

Under the bill, Iowa doctors would be banned from providing transgender youth with hormone treatments or surgery.

A similar bill is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate have advanced slightly different versions of a bill that would change the state’s child labor laws.

It would expand the hours minors can work. And it would allow the state education department and workforce development directors to waive prohibitions on teens having certain jobs. In some cases, teens would be allowed to work in construction and manufacturing if it’s part of an approved work-based learning program.

Two bills are moving along in the Iowa legislature to restrict how cities across the state could use automated or remote traffic enforcement systems, including speed cameras. More on the story from WHO-Television in Des Moines can be found here.

One bill is in the House, and the other is in the Senate.

New legislation that would allow people to have guns and ammunition in their vehicles at schools, colleges, prisons and their workplaces received preliminary approval from an Iowa Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports asimilar bill in the Iowa House also was advanced by a subcommittee last week and appears to have broad support for passage.

The bill is on the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for Thursday. It needs committee approval under legislative rules to remain eligible for debate after this week’s “funnel” deadline.

State lawmakers have begun debate on a proposal to allow people to carry concealed guns in Nebraska without a permit. The so-called constitutional carry bill failed last year to overcome a filibuster led by opponents. Sen. Tom Brewer, of Gordon, who again introduced the bill, opened debate by noting it would not usurp current requirements for federal background checks to buy guns or stop businesses from banning guns in their establishments. Nebraska already allows gun owners to carry firearms in public view, as long as they don’t have a criminal record that bars them from possessing one and aren’t in a place where guns are prohibited.

Nebraska lawmakers are considering competing bills to address ways to enact a voter ID requirement approved by voters last November. While voters approved the photo ID measure, it’s up to the Legislature to encode it into state law. Omaha Sen. Jen Day's bill would offer a wide-range of identification that would satisfy the photo ID requirement, from driver’s licenses, state IDs and passports to student and government employment IDs. Two bills introduced by state Sen. Steve Erdman, of Bayard, go beyond simply requiring photo IDs to vote. One measure would cancel some fees to acquire IDs, but would also largely eliminate voting by mail.

South Dakota lawmakers are advancing bills that would set new regulations for the state’s business relationship with foreign entities. The bills were proposed in response to lawmakers’ fears that foreign countries have maligned intentions. One bill that passed would require agricultural landowners to help legislators tally how much land is owned by foreign countries. The other bill expected to pass Thursday would prohibit government partnerships with businesses owned or controlled overseas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says foreign entities and individuals control less than 3% of all U.S. farmland.

Donald Trump is planning to visit Iowa in mid-March, a first foray to the leadoff caucus state since announcing his 2024 White House campaign. The former president hinted at an Iowa trip “very soon” in a radio interview with a Des Moines talk show host this week. A day later, a Trump aide confirmed that plans were underway for an upcoming appearance, but declined to provide details about the location or date, beyond the middle of this month. Trump has been notably absent in Iowa, where other high-profile Republicans have visited after a slow start to campaigning in the state.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds was honored during the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida, today. She received the Renewable Fuels Association’s All-Industry Award. Reynolds says the award “is a personal honor” and “validation of many years spent fighting for renewable fuels.” Reynolds and other Midwest governors pushed for the EPA for permanent access to E15 in the summer. The Associated Press reports that the move hasn’t been allowed because of concerns that it would worsen smog during hot weather. The EPA has proposed the change for Midwest states starting next summer. Reynolds says she requested a meeting with the president to push for an emergency waiver for this year. More information can be found in a news release at the bottom of this page.

Former Iowa State basketball player Caleb Grill says he has been battling mental illness and regrets what led to his dismissal. Coach T.J. Otzelberger said Grill had failed to meet program expectations. Grill was the Cyclones’ third-leading scorer and started 22 of 25 games. Grill says he’s been battling mental illness. He thanked Otzelberger for the opportunity to play for the Cyclones. He thanked his family for support when he might have made a decision that would have cost him his life.

Submitted news releases:

UnityPoint Health and Presbyterian Healthcare Services announce

intent to form new healthcare organization

West Des Moines, Iowa (March 2, 2023) – New Mexico-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services and Midwest-based health system UnityPoint Health® have signed a letter of intent to explore the formation of a new healthcare organization. The proposed healthcare company would see both systems preserve their trusted brand and continue delivering care locally while collectively achieving administrative efficiencies under a parent organization.

“As a not-for-profit health system, we must pave a sustainable path forward to continue serving our communities with care and coverage. While we’ve done that successfully independently, we know that partnering with like-minded health systems will allow us to accelerate our efforts,” says Dale Maxwell, president and CEO, Presbyterian Healthcare Services. “UnityPoint Health shares in our commitment to keeping healthcare delivery local and creating a culture where the workforce thrives which will serve as foundational elements as we embark on this journey.”

Combined, UnityPoint Health and Presbyterian impact the lives of four million patients and members through more than 40 hospital facilities, hundreds of clinics and significant health plan operations. The two organizations collectively represent a 40,000-strong workforce including nearly 3,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians working alongside independent clinicians, educational partners and colleges.

Goals for exploring the creation of a new healthcare organization, which would function as a parent company for not-for-profit health systems, include making greater investments in clinical excellence, digital innovation, workforce development and value-based care while lowering overall administrative costs.

“UnityPoint Health and Presbyterian are two organizations rooted in similar values,” says Clay Holderman, president and CEO, UnityPoint Health. “By lowering administrative costs, building new capabilities and increasing investments in innovation and clinical excellence, our intent is to help improve affordability and accessibility of care. We’re excited about the unique possibilities ahead.”

Both systems will now pursue a period of greater evaluation and exploration of next steps towards a definitive agreement and regulatory approvals.

Gov. Reynolds Receives Renewable Fuels Association All-Industry Award and Addresses National Ethanol Conference

ORLANDO – Today, Gov. Reynolds received the Renewable Fuels Association’s All-Industry Award and addressed the National Ethanol Conference. Below are excerpts from her remarks:

“Receiving the All-Industry Award is a personal honor and a humbling validation of our many years spent fighting for renewable fuels, going back to my time as Lt. Governor and testifying against efforts to water down the RFS. Since then, my belief in this industry has never wavered. I even made a point to give biofuels a shoutout in my response last year to President Biden’s State of the Union. And make no mistake, as the nation’s attention turns to Iowa heading into 2024, renewable fuels will be part of the conversation.

“I was proud to lead a multi-governor, bipartisan letter that successfully pushed the EPA to issue a waiver. Giving Americans access to lower cost E15 over the summer when gas prices were at their highest. But this temporary fix was just the beginning. The letter also included a regional request that the EPA provide permanent access to E15 in future summers. I was pleased to learn that this week the federal government published the final rule that will fulfill its statutory obligation to comply with this request. The impact of this victory will be enormous.

“With Washington there is always a catch. In addition to the White House forcing the EPA, unlawfully, to slow-walk the rule, they have also delayed implementation until the next summers’ driving season. This arbitrary deadline is unacceptable and disappointing, but hardly surprising and we won’t accept it without a fight. I’m requesting another emergency waiver to this year while at the same time asking the courts to require the Administration to grant our request immediately. I’ve also requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the critical timeliness of the waiver.”