Decision 2016 - Two vie for Iowa House District 56

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Kristi Hager

Patti Ruff

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

The Register continues its series of feature articles on candidates in key county and state government races. The articles, which appear in Q/A format, have been complied using the exact answers given by the candidates to our questions. 

The third article in this series looks at the two women running for Iowa House District 56. They are: Patti Ruff (D), who is the incumbent, and challenger Kristi Hager (R).

Kristi Hager

Tell our readers about you (where you were raised, where you went to school, where you live, previous careers/jobs, family, and anything else you’d like to share.

I come from a farming family in Allamakee County and spent most of my life near Waukon. I attended Allamakee Community School, NITI (Calmar), and University of Dubuque receiving my Diploma, Associate Degree and Bachelors respectively. My husband, Bob, and I have been married 30 years and have three daughters (2 in active Air Force),  two son-n-laws, and two grandchildren. I have been a registered nurse for over 25 years. We own and operate Upper Iowa Resort & Rental, near Dorchester and opened Living Stone, a non-profit, faith-based, transitional living program. We’ve been active in our community all of our life.

What are your thoughts on Governor Branstad’s decision to privatize Medicaid?

I was first made aware of this through our hospital administrator. Shortly after December 2015 I sent an email off to the Governor’s Office referencing concerns about bypassing legislative session and questioning his personal motives around this. Truthfully I  was surprised when I received a response March 16, 2016 with these excerpts taken from the actual email I received back:  Iowa is following the lead of 39 other states and the District of Columbia to modernize our Medicaid program…During the 2015 Legislative Session, the legislature approved, with bipartisan support, Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization plan in Senate File 505…The experience of other states going to managed care and our own 30 years of experience with managed care in Iowa, prove Medicaid Modernization will increase quality of services, create greater access to the right services, and ensure accountability in the Medicaid program.  

Many providers are reporting difficulties receiving Medicaid payments. According to a recently released survey of 400 Iowa providers, 46 percent say they’ll reduce their services. How will you help tackle this issue? 

The survey you are referencing was put out by Democrat Lawmakers in July 25, 2016. Understandably with the roll out of Managed Care Organizations you can expect bumps in the road. I’ve heard stories about reimbursement rates/services, institutions depleting reserves or borrowing money to stay afloat. I do believe we need to hold MCO’s accountable to the legislative built- in penalties for not meeting their requirements. 

Consolidating mental health facilities has also created problems. According to one survey, Iowa now ranks dead last in availability of mental health beds. Do you believe a mental health care crisis is looming and how would you address constituent concerns over this issue?

This survey may be misleading. The reason for consolidation, in part, is the lack of psychiatrists available to provide the necessary services. There is a psychiatrist shortage. What is preventing people from going into psychiatry? How else can these services be provided? Rather than keeping institutions open when we do not have providers available beds were consolidated into two rather than four existing buildings. Another trend in treating the mentally ill is to provide community-based services. How can remote area medicine or telemedicine be utilized to meet these needs? How else can these services be provided? 

How will you ensure the rural school districts have an equal place at the table when it comes to education funding?

According to Ballotpedia, 43.3% of the State budget goes to Education. Of that 77-80% is for salaries. In rural schools transportation accounts for 5% of most budgets (typically the second highest expense). IASB proposed transportation legislation which has been looked at. I only understand this in part but it’s my understanding the proposal would separate transportation costs from education. This would allow for distribution of these resources to communities based on actual transportation rates; more for rural communities and less for urban. This way the state cost per pupil would be the same for all districts and not used, in part, for transportation costs.

What are your priorities for keeping rural Iowa at the table for state funding for economic development, infrastructure improvements and affordable housing?

What role should government play in all these? Would our communities be better served with lower property taxes, a competitive tax code, encouraging entrepreneurial and pioneer spirits to arise and bring forth new business? Iowa has one of the highest corporate tax rates and individual income taxes in our country. 

Anything else you’d like to add? (Please limit your response here to 100 words or less.)

People in government tend to have the mindset to manage not solve problems. I tend to be a problem-solver. As your Representative I will stand and speak on the House floor about the impact legislation may have on rural Iowans. I will be a persistent, friendly reminder of the needs of rural versus urban. I will request of the House Majority Leader to be placed on committees having jurisdiction over issues affecting rural Iowans. I am not afraid of public speaking nor asking questions to help others see from a different perspective. I will bring honesty, openness, transparency.

Patti Ruff

Tell our readers about you (where you were raised, where you went to school, where you live, previous careers/jobs, family, and anything else you’d like to share.

I was born in Texas but raised in Mc Gregor from the age of 6. I graduated high school from Mar-Mac and graduated with a BA in history from Loras College.  My husband, Dan, and I live outside of McGregor. We have 3 sons, Liam, Bryar, and Tucker. I am in my twentieth season at the grain elevator in McGregor, run by Bunge North America. I have served on the MFL Mar-Mac School Board and was president for four years. First elected in 2012, I am currently serving in the Iowa House and serve on Agriculture, Natural Resources, Ways and Means and I am the ranking member on the Education committee. 

What are your thoughts on Governor Branstad’s decision to privatize Medicaid?

In my opinion, it has been a disaster from the beginning.  The decision was rushed through by the executive branch with little oversight provided to make sure the transition happened smoothly.  When you have Iowans being denied services, providers not being paid, and transportation nightmares, it is not a success. 

Many providers are reporting difficulties receiving Medicaid payments. According to a recently released survey of 400 Iowa providers, 46 percent say they’ll reduce their services. How will you help tackle this issue?

I will fight for more oversight of the Managed Care Organizations. If we continue with the privatization of Medicaid services, it is the legislature’s job to make sure that services are not being denied to patients and providers are paid in a timely manner.  With providers reducing services because of delayed payments, it hurts the patients in the end. The MCO’s are doing Iowans an injustice by not doing their due diligence.  

Consolidating mental health facilities has also created problems. According to one survey, Iowa now ranks dead last in availability of mental health beds. Do you believe a mental health care crisis is looming and how would you address constituent concerns over this issue?

Unfortunately, the crisis may already be here because too many in our community cannot access the treatment and services they need. I have championed bills creating a data base of bed availability so we won’t have our county deputies and EMS providers driving upwards of 5 hours with no guarantee a bed will open. I also helped pass a bill allowing local residents to access services in neighboring states like Minnesota and Wisconsin. We need to create more crisis centers especially in rural Iowa to help handle those dealing with mental health issues.

How will you ensure the rural school districts have an equal place at the table when it comes to education funding?

It is important to educate others on how important flexibility in funding can help with operating a rural school. You won’t find anyone that fights harder than I do for rural schools. As the former president of the MFL Mar-Mac board, I know the daily struggles of a rural Iowa school.  As Ranking Member of Education, I will continue to make education our top priority again at the state house. I have worked tirelessly on bills expanding operational sharing for districts, fighting for more supplemental state aid, demanding transportation funding for our geographically large districts, being the voice for all small schools, and show how even small items can strain a budget.  

What are your priorities for keeping rural Iowa at the table for state funding for economic development, infrastructure improvements and affordable housing?

As a board member of Upper Explorerland it is important for rural Iowa to work with partners at the state and federal level to help keep them viable.  The USDA is a great partner to ensure rural Iowa is the place where families want to live to raise their kids. 

I will continue to work with other rural legislators to ensure the strengths of small town Iowa and its values remain attractive.  We need more small business opportunities for our main streets, keep our rural schools open, and guarantee access to quality health care across Iowa. 

Anything else you’d like to add? (Please limit your response here to 100 words or less.)

It has been an honor to have served this district over the past 4 years.  I hope to continue the work I have been doing as your state representative, working across party lines to get things done, and making sure your voices are heard in Des Moines.  Thank you.

 
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