WASHINGTON STATE — Emily Groff had never considered telehealth until her abdomen started hurting. Even then, she wasn’t convinced it would help. It was late March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the state’s health care providers to stop all in-person non-emergency medical and dental treatment to conserve meager supplies of personal protective equipment – a moratorium that would last for two months. To Groff’s surprise, the doctors did not need to examine her in person to correctly diagnose the problem: Gallstones. “It was a little awkward at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly,” said Groff, 44.
Although it’s been around since at least the mid-1990s, telehealth has been slow to catch on before this spring, said Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy. Before COVID, only 19 states’ Medicaid programs covered remote patient visits originating from the home, according to the center’s most recent 50-state survey. Fewer than half covered remote patient monitoring and only 16 reimbursed for store-and-forward care. FIND STATE-BY-STATE PRE-COVID POLICIES
Since March, there have been a flurry of changes to federal and state policies regulating virtual consultations as governors, legislators and insurance commissioners rushed to remove barriers to telehealth. Common changes temporarily expanded the types of providers, services, technologies and locations of telehealth visits covered by state Medicaid rules and eased licensing rules for out-of-state providers during the public health emergency.
COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.
Even before coronavirus hit American colleges and universities, even before their budgets imploded because of the pandemic, questions were being asked nationally about how these institutions spend their money. Some high-profile decisions by University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld have put the focus on this issue in our state. The issue further crystallized last week when a list of administrative staff at Iowa State University landed in my mailbox. At its essence, this issue is the growth of the number of administrators, compared with the number of academic staff. Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University in Virginia, studies this issue.
The death of Congressman John Lewis last Friday night accomplished what police officers with their billy clubs and white mobs with their fists and pipes never were able to achieve: Silencing his voice. For 60 years, Lewis expressed his opinions – on segregation, on voting rights, on economic inequality – during sit-ins, picketing and speeches. Not everyone was interested in his views. More than once he was beaten nearly to death, and his head bore scars of a skull fracture and those beatings. Last year, Lewis arose at the Capitol to make his point once again: “Voting access is the key to equality in our democracy.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism – IowaWatch.org has been selected as a partner to report on how COVID-19 is changing and challenging rural school districts, the Institute for Nonprofit News reported. It is IowaWatch’s third reporting collaboration in the past year. “Our goal is to look at the smaller districts that have fewer resources and how they are meeting the challenges of learning during a global pandemic,” said Executive Director Suzanne Behnke. The Walton Family Foundation is providing a grant that will allow IowaWatch and other collaboration members, El Paso Matters, The Nevada Independent, New Mexico In-Depth, Scalawag, Underscore Media and Wisconsin Watch, to report and write on rural schools in their respective states during the 2020-2021 school year. The project will produce three reports by IowaWatch and by each member over the six months of the grant, at the start of the school year, toward the middle of the fall and a last installment toward the end of 2020.
ByIowaWatch database of U.S. HHS data compiled by Lyle Muller |
This story is part of a nationwide collaboration of Institute for Nonprofit News members examining the affect COVID-19 is having on rural health care. IowaWatch reporting in this project was made possible by support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Relief payments distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration have gone to the following Iowa health care providers, as of July 15, 2020. The funds come via the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These data show updates from databases IowaWatch published May 19, 2020, June 3, 2020 and June 18, 2020 and June 30. This database expands from the earlier ones at IowaWatch.org and shows all health care provider distributions in Iowa.
Give an extra tug on your seatbelt. The next couple of months will be rough ones. The new school year starts in a few weeks. Not surprisingly, with the coronavirus still sickening and killing people in Iowa, what normally is a time of much excitement has become a time of great anxiety. Our president has said he expects students to be back in the classroom for in-person learning in every school in America. If schools do not comply, he has threatened to withhold their federal education aid.
Jose Gabriel Martinez taught his family to watch out for and care for each other. They needed that lesson when COVID-19 ripped through their Iowa family, his surviving son says in this IowaWatch interview.