Decision 2016 - Three candidates for Senate 28 seat

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Michael Breitbach

Troy Hageman

Jan Heikes

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 fourth article in this series looks at the three people running for Iowa Senate District 28, which encompasses much of Clayton County. They are: Michael Breitbach (R), who is the incumbent, and challengers Troy Hageman (Libertarian) and Jan Heikes (D).

Michael Breitbach

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 raised in Colesburg, IA, just across the Clayton County border in Delaware County.  I went to and graduated from Edgewood Colesburg Community Schools. After graduation I went to Loras College where I graduated with a double major in Accounting and Business. I worked in the accounting field ending up in Strawberry Point where I was a corporate accountant for Swales Concrete Inc. In 1984, with my partners Roger Swales and my brother Tim, we started Trans Star Trucking Co, a 20-employee bulk carrier company. We purchased Swales Precast Inc in 1997. I also spent 28 years as a partner in Smith Insurance LLC as a Certified Insurance Councilor.  

My wife, Theresa and I have been married for 39 years. She works as a registered nurse in cardiac rehab for Covenant Health Systems in Waterloo and Oelwein. We have 5 children and 9 grandchildren.

I have enjoyed many years on the Strawberry Point Fire Dept, Ambulance Service, Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Lion’s Club and Jaycee’s. I am on the board of directors for Strawberry Homes Inc, Strawberry Leisure Homes Inc, Farmers Savings Bank and Strawberry Point Development.

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

The costs associated with Medicaid have skyrocketed in the last decade, growing at an unsustainable rate from $2.6 billion in FY07 to an estimate of more than $5 billion in FY17. Unfortunately, this increased spending has failed to create better health outcomes for Iowa Medicaid members. With now more than 560,000 individuals receiving benefits, Iowa’s Medicaid membership is growing and we owe it to them to ensure they have the best quality of care possible.  

The transition to managed care has not been without difficulties. While many of the early issues experienced by patients and providers have been resolved, our oversight of the transition must continue in order to ensure no patients fall through the cracks and providers are paid for the important services they deliver. I was proud to support extensive oversight of managed care and it is more important now that ever to continue to hold these companies accountable to all Iowans as we work to provide better health outcomes for Medicaid members.

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?

As providers have informed me of issues they are experiencing, I have worked with the Department of Human Services and managed care organizations to resolve these issues and ensure our providers are paid. Again, we must continue our extensive oversight of the managed care organizations to ensure problems are resolved quickly and permanently. Our providers are the backbone of our healthcare system and vital to the effort to obtain healthier outcomes for Medicaid members. I will continue to fight on their behalf.

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?

I believe the mental health care crisis is something the entire country is now coming to grips with. Many people are improperly placed in prison when a more appropriate place for them might be community corrections or local facilities. This recognition will not only greatly reduce the prison population but it will place people with challenges in a more appropriate environment for their conditions. This change has been proven to be more successful than simple incarceration.

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

I co-sponsored legislation last session to move transportation costs out of the general budget.  Every school in my district has higher than average transportation costs. These costs reduce the dollars the school district has to spend for curriculum. Moving the transportation cost out of the general fund would mean that our schools would have the same number of curriculum dollars to spend on our students as urban districts have. This disparity sometimes amounts to over $800 per student!  Our rural districts are also faced with declining enrollment. This puts added pressure on being able to keep our schools properly funded. We need additional discussions on how to address this ongoing problem.

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

Many of our towns and counties work very hard on economic development. We need to keep in mind that most economic development comes from existing business and to make sure we support our local business so they can grow. We are making large investments to our infrastructure. A fuel tax increase last year is adding about $200 mil per year to improve our roads and bridges. Over 32% of that goes directly to our counties for them to make these improvements. Most of our affordable housing is directed from a federal level.

Anything else you’d like to add?

One of the questions I try to keep in mind is what is the function of government?  Is the issue at hand something we, as state government, should be addressing or is it something that should be addressed at a local or even a personal level. The government should not be doing things for us that we should be doing for ourselves.  

I have enjoyed serving Senate District 28 for the past 4 years and I am looking forward to serving you for another 4 years.  I humbly ask for your vote this November.        

Troy Hageman 

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.

A little about me: I grew up and still currently live in Calmar. I graduated high school at South Winneshiek class of 2008. Currently working as a Paramedic for my local community, which I earned through University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics EMSLRC 2011. I enjoy hunting, kayaking, camping and skiing. Learning about libertarianism, free market economics and watching world markets and politics is also an interest. 

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

Here’s a quick definition of Crony capitalism from google. 

“Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism.”

Three private insurance companies gained in the privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid system. Don’t confuse privatization with free market capitalism. Last I knew there were a lot more than three insurance companies competing in the market place. Medicaid like social security is doomed to fail. Once there is more people receiving rather than giving there will be an imbalance, the state could try to raise taxes to pay for it but then the economy tanks and nothing gets paid for. Libertarians favor free market economies including the healthcare industry. 

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 healthcare industry has a lot of gov’t intervention. Reducing the unnecessary intervention and creating an environment for more competition in the industry would improve it. Industries leaning more free market, provide better products and services, look at the technology industry today. Can you blame the 46% that say they will reduce their services? If they don’t get paid, then why would they provide a service? Voluntary interaction is paramount in freedom, the state can not force doctors to provide services. Solving this issue means less state intervention, libertarians believe in less gov’t, and more freedom. 

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?

Yes there is a mental health crisis and limited bed availability. But again are we going to force providers to provide services? Reducing state intervention in the healthcare industry would free the area for innovative ideas. Central planned ideas lag compared to decentralized free market ideas. 

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

I won’t guarantee from the state level, but families, parents, siblings, communities will and have provided education and support the schools very well. Just because Libertarians want less gov’t doesn’t mean they don’t see the future without the said service. Education, roads, healthcare, etc. all can, have and will be provided by a free market. Good ideas don’t require force. Forcing funds from people is not necessary when it comes to a great idea of educating our youth. Don’t confuse more funding with more intelligence, all the funding in the world doesn’t create intelligent students a higher priority in learning does. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

The common theme to the questions asked as if I want the state to do those things. Libertarians don’t want the state to do much. We are the land of the free, that is what libertarians are working on attaining, not free stuff or services off the state. The free market can provide, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, but when has any of those industries been given complete freedom. The state intervention has grown in those industries and today people complain about the gov’t mishaps but then they want more gov’t intervention to fix it? Lets try freedom for a change. 

Jan Heikes

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’ve lived in Winneshiek County since 1985, but I was raised in Kansas, on the family farm in Riley County. After graduating from Kansas State University, I joined the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. I spent a year working in juvenile court group homes in inner-city Cincinnati, learning about the inner workings of our juvenile court system. That experience inspired me to go back to school at Ohio State University to get dual Masters in Social Work and Rural Sociology. 

I met my husband, Lee, in Ohio, and in 1985, we moved to Decorah. We bought 10 acres of land with a farmhouse, barn, hog shed and several out buildings, and we raised our two sons, Joel and Sam.  Our family also includes Johanna, Joel’s wife, and their children, Margret and James.

When we first moved to Iowa, I taught social work at Luther, served as a therapist at Northeast Iowa Mental Health Center, and took on various social work roles at Oneota Riverview Care Facility.. 

In 1996, I got a chance to combine my passion for local planning & policy with my passion for working with individuals with serious mental illness and disabilities when I took a job as Mental Health & Disabilities Central Point of Coordination (CPC) Administrator for Winneshiek County. I also took over the same role for Allamakee County in 2000. I loved getting to go to work every day to advocate for quality, cost-effective mental health services at the local level. In 2014, I took that advocacy to the state level when I accepted a position as a Community Systems Consultant with the Iowa Department of Human Services.

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

In order to control the increasing cost of healthcare, “managed care” will probably be for everyone in the near future but it has to be done correctly. Governor Branstad handed over our Medicaid system to three private companies with no legislative input, and rushed it into existence. If I were in the Senate when Governor Branstad had come up with this plan, and if he had consulted the Legislature, I would have been happy to sit down and work with him on ways to improve the Medicaid system we had, because it did have some flaws. But now we have a system that fails to provide Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens with services they need, and I want to go to the Senate to help fix it. 

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?

When I get to the Senate, fixing this issue will be one of my top priorities. If we don’t get these providers paid, and they have to cut services or close their doors, we are doing to have even more serious issues. The Legislature has to come together, Republicans and Democrats, to determine how to move forward. Some will want to scrap the new system and go back to the old way, while others will just want to see how this plan plays out. I will work for a reasonable compromise; one that will institute strict oversight of the program and whatever other changes we need to make, so that all Iowans on Medicaid get the care they need and all providers are getting paid.

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?

We need to make sure that mental health is a priority. Every time we fail to treat one of neighbors suffering from mental illness, it affects our entire community. These people wind up on the streets or in our jails; neither of them are places where they can get the help they need. So, I will fight to make sure we: a) support the development of locally based services including crisis intervention and transitional services, and b) implement a long-term plan that will ensure we become a national leader in mental health treatment.

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

We talk all the time about growing our economy, but in order to bring the 21st century jobs that we all want to this state, folks will need to be prepared. Iowa has a history of having great schools, but that greatness is under threat. 

When I go to Des Moines, I’m going to fight for NE Iowa schools to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed. I will ensure that rural school districts have a strong voice in the Senate, and I won’t rest until all Iowa schools, no matter what part of the state they are in, are the best in the nation.

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

For years, I’ve worked with local, county, and state government. I know how to use government as a tool of good; to advocate for those who need it. Up until this year, my advocacy has been for those with mental illnesses and disabilities, but now I want to fight for every single resident of NE Iowa. 

I will use my experience and the relationships I’ve already made with legislative and governmental officials in Des Moines to make sure that Northeast Iowa is not only at the table, but leading the way on state funding for economic development, infrastructure improvements, and affordable housing. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

2016 is an exciting year for being a woman on the ticket.  There are such strong, capable candidates that are women up and down the ticket.  With 50% of the population being female, this should have happened years ago.  It’s exciting to hear my granddaughter and her friends proclaim “I want to be president when I grow up!” and believe it can happen.

 
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