OPINION

Remember to apply for energy assistance

As the weather begins to cool off, many people are getting their furnaces tuned up for the winter months, and some are concerned about the cost of their heating bills.

Beginning Nov. 1 (and Oct. 1 for households with elderly/disabled member), residents that qualify can sign up to receive assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Households that qualify are protected from natural gas or electric service disconnections from Nov. 1 through April 1. In order to qualify for LIHEAP, the total household income must be at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level.

Homeowners may also consider applying for the Weatherization Assistance Program. This program helps Iowans reduce the heating and cooling costs for low income persons, particularly the elderly, disabled, and households with children by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, thereby reducing the household’s energy bills.

Those interested in either program can visit https://www.sieda.org or contact our local Community Action Agency in Jefferson County at 641-472-6140, Davis County at 641-664-1911, and Van Buran County at 319-293-3722.

Medicaid privatization

Since taking office, I’ve had many people contact me concerned about the privatization of Medicaid. A new survey by the Des Moines Register found that 70 percent of Iowans think the state should *not* continue having private companies run Medicaid.

My continuing concern has been that we haven’t seen any cost savings and many people have been denied critical care, essential medical equipment, and have had their services severely reduced or cut altogether.

A recent report released by the State Ombudsman Office, the independent department responsible for investigating complaints against the state and local governments, found that there has been a 157 percent increase in Medicaid-related problems reported to the agency in 2017. This crisis can only be solved by working together to develop bipartisan solutions that makes Medicaid accessible and reliable for all Iowans. It’s time to work together to fix the Medicaid privatization mess.

I was also disappointed to hear our university schools including the University of Iowa and Iowa State University have slipped in the national ranking according to U.S. News. As Iowans, we have always had great pride in our universities and our school system. With the highest graduation rate and ACT scores near the top nationwide, we should continue to invest in our schools to be able to compete with other states to bring and keep the best and brightest.

Mental health

A lot of focus has been given to the growing concern over access to mental health services in Iowa. Even after we passed new legislation last year that added more services to the list of core services that all Mental Health and Disability Service regions must provide, the majority party made the decision to cut state mental health providers without a plan to increase the services within community settings or strengthen existing providers with highly skilled professionals. I think it’s imperative that we find a predictable funding stream for mental health services while ensuring that all Iowans, especially children that suffer from mental illness have access to treatment.

-Phil Miller serves District 82 in the Iowa House of Representatives. The district includes all of Davis and Van Buren counties, and most of Jefferson County. Rep. Miller can be reached at 641-472-2511, or at phil.miller@legis.iowa.gov.