University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld, right, speaks with Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, left, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, center, during a visit on the University of Iowa campus to learn about diversifying biomass fuel sources on at the Cambus Maintenance Facility on Wednesday, June, 7, 2017. Reynolds and Gregg met with President Harreld and other university experts on their visit while discussing the university's biomass portfolio. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Soyer: An open letter to Gov. Reynolds

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Hannah Soyer

hannah-soyer@uiowa.edu

Dear Gov. Kim Reynolds,

My name is Hannah Soyer. I am from Johnston, Iowa, and just recently graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and English. I have a progressive disability that means I use a wheelchair and rely on the help of others to assist me with many physical activities and personal care, such as dressing, showering, and preparing food. It is only through government-funded programs such as Medicaid and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services that I am able to attend college in Iowa City, two hours away from my hometown of Des Moines. These sorts of programs fund the personal-care assistants I hire to help me with my everyday needs—physical tasks that I cannot complete because of my disability.

First off, I would like to congratulate you on becoming governor of Iowa and the first female governor in the state. I hope that during your time serving our state, you do your absolute best to fight for the rights of Iowans. As you recently announced your plans to run for full term in 2018, I hope you spend time getting to know Iowans and do your best to serve them. One particular right that is being threatened in Iowa and nationwide is health care, which disproportionately affects people with disabilities.

Over the course of the past year, there have been many articles published detailing how the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa has been catastrophic, particularly for those who are receiving services. I was under Amerihealth Caritas for a short period of time, during which it cut the hourly wage I was paying my personal care assistants by about $3. My personal-care assistants do important jobs, and my family and I believe that placing value on such jobs equates to higher quality care, which I can personally attest to. My family and I went through an appeal process, but Amerihealth refused to listen to us. Eventually, we appealed for me to go back on the un-privatized Medicaid, and luckily, our appeal went through. Now that decisions regarding my care are no longer being made by a for-profit company, I am able to pay my personal-care assistants the regular amount and direct my care as I see fit.

This is not a singular story, and unfortunately, many people under the privatized Medicaid have had far worse experiences than I have. All you have to do is read the news articles covering this to see how true this is. It is time that those in positions of authority recognize that their plan to privatize Medicaid is hurting those who rely on it and undo the damage it has done.

In regards to what is happening at the federal level, I want to impress upon you the seriousness of what a block-grant system would mean for people like me. As can be seen in Iowa, when the power to control health care is put in the hands of the states, the needs of people who often rely on it most are put in jeopardy. This is largely because states are forced to make up the difference of funds from the federal government.

I can only hope that you will take these words to heart when making future decisions that would affect the lives of Iowans. It’s true that I, and many other people with disabilities, rely on services funded by the government, services funded by tax dollars. But I would hope that those in positions of authority, people such as you, can see the value of allowing people with disabilities to contribute to society. Surely, if you had a son or daughter with a disability that relied on services such as Medicaid to function, you would understand the necessity of protecting funding for such services instead of cutting taxes for the most wealthy, or as some have referred to them, “job creators.” So we’re clear: My very being alive creates jobs — jobs for people like my personal care assistants to take care of me. Shouldn’t that be protected?

Gov. Reynolds, you have so much power to do so much good with your new position currently and in the future, and I highly encourage you to do so.

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