Report card for the states rates those with best and worst laws to cut traffic deaths

Drunk drivers, motorcyclists and young or distracted motorists make up the majority of those involved in fatal vehicle crashes, and many states are failing to pass key safety measures that could prevent such deaths, according to a new report by a highway safety group. The nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety each year releases a report card grading states on their legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths. The group’s 2020 report credits seven states—Rhode Island, Washington, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, California and Louisiana, along with the District of Columba—with having the best laws to reduce crash deaths. Twelve states—South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire and Virginia—ranked worst in the report card. In 2018, the most recent year for which federal data is available, 36,560 people died in traffic collisions in the U.S. The figure marks a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017, but is still high compared to earlier in the decade.

Will Iowa outsource its protection of the elderly?

Iowa’s efforts to privatize a state agency tasked with protecting the elderly and disabled have stalled in the face of escalating complaints that the office is routinely violating federal and state law. Many of the complaints are coming from within the agency itself. Rep. Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, says the Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office seems to be in disarray and is struggling with staff defections, internal complaints and an uncertain future. “I’m not happy with that,” she said. “It’s not a good situation over there.”

Newly released data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System shows that of the nation’s 50 state long-term care ombudsmen, Iowa ranks last in on-site visits made to care facilities.

Iowa withholds $44M from insurance company that provides Medicaid, citing unresolved payment, claims issues

Iowa health officials are withholding $44 million from an insurance company that provides health coverage to Iowans under the state’s privatized Medicaid program, pointing to unresolved issues with payments to health providers. Iowa Department of Human Services staff told Iowa Total Care representatives Friday that the state will withhold about a third of the amount it would have otherwise paid the company this month. Michael Randol, Iowa’s Medicaid director, said in a letter released Friday that Iowa Total Care had not paid more than 100,000 claims that providers had submitted. 

“Ample opportunity was given (to Iowa Total Care) to remedy the issues,” Randol’s letter said. The state’s action Friday was the first time Iowa’s DHS has withheld payment to a Medicaid insurance provider. Medicaid is the $5 billion federal-state program that provides health coverage to poor and disabled Iowans. Nearly 650,000 Iowans, including children, are enrolled in Medicaid.

Missing DNA evidence hampers wrongful conviction fight in Iowa

In June, William Beeman, who is serving a life sentence in the Iowa Department of Corrections for a 1980 murder, asked a judge to order a DNA evidence test that he contends could prove his innocence. But police agencies involved in the case say they still can’t find the evidence to test. The missing items include a rape kit recovered from the body of the victim, 22-year-old Michiel Winkel, and bloody clothes from the state park where authorities found her dead. Beeman was a local DJ in rural Muscatine County, on the state’s eastern border, when police arrested him for murdering Winkel, who had been an acquaintance. Beeman’s attorneys argue that DNA evidence could shed more light on a crime with multiple suspects, no eyewitnesses, and a confession Beeman claims was coerced by police.