Weekly News Roundup: Privatized Medicaid Program Saving State Far Less Than Promised

Also: A state lawmaker sues the governor over allegations of misused state funds, and Senator Grassley requests an investigation into the author of the "Trump dossier"


The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

According to a new estimate from the Iowa Department of Human Services, the shift to a privatized Medicaid program championed by former Gov. Terry Branstad will save the state 80 percent less than Branstad originally claimed it would. The former governor said privatizing the program would save the state $232 million in the 2018 fiscal year, but now DHS says the savings will be closer to $47.1 million. The Des Moines Register reported that a DHS spokesperson was unable to explain why savings estimates for 2018 were 60 percent lower than over the previous fiscal year while the “two reports include almost identical descriptions of how the estimates were made.” Meanwhile, many of the 600,000 Iowans covered under the flailing program are continuing to face problems, including two severely autistic adult men who may be forced out of a state care home due to lack of funding.

In Lawsuit, Lawmaker Accuses Reynolds of Misusing State Funds

On Tuesday, state Rep. Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Department of Management Director David Roeder that alleged the pair “conspired together to unlawfully appropriate and misuse state funds.” The suit stems from a decision made by Reynolds last September to transfer $13 million from the Iowa Economic Emergency Fund by proclamation in order to cover a projected state budget shortfall. At the time, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a Democrat, warned Reynolds that her action was not in compliance with a state law requiring the convening of a special legislative session before transferring the funds. However, the Reynolds administration dismissed the warning as partisan politics. Hall, who filed the lawsuit, is the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Grassley Calls for Investigation into “Trump Dossier” Author

As head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley on Friday joined South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to request that the attorney general’s office open a criminal investigation into former British spy Christopher Steele. Steele is the author of an opposition research dossier of uncertain veracity with multiple salacious allegations about Donald Trump, including that Russian spies possess a video of the president watching prostitutes urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel room that he believed Barack and Michelle Obama once slept on. Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, are claiming that the request is another effort to distract from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.

Correction: This post initially said that the Trump dossier claimed that a video allegedly shows Trump being urinated on by Russian prostitutes. In fact, the dossier claimed that Trump watched them urinate on a bed.

Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.