Iowa leading way in child health care, but more providers needed - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa leading way in child health care, but more providers needed

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by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Iowa children may be better off because of a new Medicaid and Hawk-I bill, but according to Governor Culver, there's still more to do.

A national survey for children's health finds Iowa is significantly above the national average for state health care.

On a day when the governor and some of the state's leading health professionals lauded Iowa as the nation's leader in child health care, they also recognized ways it can be better.

Amidst a tightening state budget, Governor Chet Culver has made it a priority to put money toward expanding Iowa's health care coverage for children.

"We're interested today to not only celebrate and talk about some of the success that we've had, what's working, but we also want to try to identify particular areas where we need to improve," Governor Culver said.

Chief among them, making sure there are enough providers.

"Coming from a small rural area in the state I have seen firsthand exactly how hard it is to get providers," UI Carver College of Medicine student body president Lyndsay Harshman said. 

Harshman grew up in the small Iowa town of Centerville, she never had a pediatrician. It's a story shared by many growing up in rural Iowa.

"The reimbursement level for physicians, nurse practitioners, PA's who practice in rural Iowa is horrendous," Chair of the Iowa Board of Health Cheryll Jones said.

"A significant burden that we've seen in the past few years is that our tuition keeps rising," Harshman said.

Harshman is looking at debt that will surpass $100,000 by graduation.

"We need to be able to think about loan forgiveness, be able to think about multi-faceted team approaches that can help provide a really great source of care for these kids that deserve fabulous care," Harshman said.

"If we can as a state offer these people an incentive to go into the primary care I think that should be our focus going forward," UI medical student Travis Piester said. 

Governor Culver says he's interested in a loan forgiveness program. But nearly everyone agrees action must be taken soon to keep Iowa as leader in children's health care.

"We can't create a system of insurance coverage and set it up for failure by not having health care providers across the state that are able to provide the care," Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom Newton said. 

Both Piester and Harshman got the chance to raise their concerns to Governor Culver.

They said having the open dialogue is a step in the right direction.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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