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Grassley investigates allegations against dental clinics PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:07

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is scrutinizing Medicaid-funded dental clinics in response to allegations of abusive treatment of children in clinics controlled by corporate investors rather than dentists.

“We’re finding that these dental practices, under pressure from owners who are not licensed dentists, have been providing services with the highest Medicaid reimbursement levels more often than less expensive, arguably more appropriate services,” Grassley said.  “There are legitimate concerns that children are receiving unnecessary care, sometimes in a traumatic way, and taxpayers are paying for it.”

Grassley has asked questions about ownership structures, incentives, parental notification policies, and participation in Medicaid from Small Smiles, Kool Smiles, and ReachOut Healthcare America.  The companies have been responsive to his inquiries, he said.  All three treat Medicaid children almost exclusively.

“We’re finding that the business model has led to abuses because dentists are under pressure to perform as many high reimbursement services on the maximum number of children on Medicaid as possible,” Grassley said.  “You have dentists under pressure to perform more services than may be necessary – giving a child a crown instead of a filling, for example – because of a bonus payment structure that creates the wrong incentives.”

The issue involves an investment structure that technically meets some state-level requirements that dental practices be dentist-owned but do not, in practice, have dentists in control.  These “owner dentists” are effectively ghost owners who maintain none of the traditional aspects of ownership of their operations, allowing the corporate investors to have control over clinical operations.

A majority of states and the District of Columbia have laws that require owners of a dental practice to be licensed in the state where the practice is located.

Last year, Church Street Health Management owned 70 Small Smiles dental clinics in 22 states and the District of Columbia.  At least five of these clinics have been closed by state regulators.  NCDR, LLC owned more than 130 Kool Smiles clinics in 16 states and the District of Columbia.  ReachOut Health Care America operates mobile clinics that treat children at schools around the country.

Grassley’s review of allegations about dental clinics also has led to Aspen Dental Management, Inc., which doesn’t accept Medicaid patients.  Questions there have been about complaints that the company promotes unnecessary treatment plans with exorbitantly expensive credit arrangements.  Aspen Dental Management, Inc. operates more than 300 clinics in 22 states.

Grassley said he expects to issue a staff report on his findings involving the companies that serve children in the Medicaid program.  His investigation into credit arrangements offered by Aspen Dental Management, Inc. is ongoing.

Click here to see the June 26, 2012, PBS Frontline piece on these issues.

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Braley Discusses House Passage of "Kadyn's Amendment" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:00

Last night, the US House adopted an amendment authored by Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) that requires the federal government to devote at least $10 million to helping states enforce traffic laws that punish reckless drivers for illegally passing stopped school buses.  The amendment, “Kadyn’s Amendment”, was named in honor of Northwood, IA, resident Kadyn Halverson, who was killed in May 2011 after a pickup truck struck her while she was boarding her school bus.  More information can be found in the release below.

For YouTube video of Rep. Braley discussing the measure during House debate last night, visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?

For audio of Rep. Braley discussing the measure during his weekly press conference call today, visit this link: http://www.mydigitalmanager.

(NOTE: Original participants in today’s press conference call might have noticed an echo during the call interfering with audio quality.  The audio recording linked to above does not have an echo in it – or has a markedly less pronounced echo – and should help correct any issues you might have had with the call’s audio quality.)

 
Help America’s Forests: Join the Arbor Day Foundation in July and 10 Much-Needed Trees Will Be Planted in National Forests PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Arbor Day Foundation   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 10:51

Nebraska City, Neb. – America’s forestland is a prized natural resource, and anyone can help plant much-needed trees in these vital areas by joining the Arbor Day Foundation.

Through the Replanting Our National Forests campaign, the Arbor Day Foundation will honor each new member who joins the Foundation in July by planting 10 trees in forests that have been devastated by wildfi res, insects and disease.

The cost for joining the Arbor Day Foundation is a $10 donation.

America’s national forests face enormous challenges, including unprecedented wildfires that have left a backlog of nearly one million acres in need of replanting. The Arbor Day Foundation has worked with the United States Forest Service for more than 20 years to plant trees in forests in need.

Our national forests need protection because they provide habitat for wildlife, keep the air clean and help ensure safe drinking water for more than 180 million Americans.

“Keeping our forests healthy is vital to the health of people and the entire planet,” said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “By planting trees in our national forests, we will preserve precious natural resources and the benefits they provide for generations to come.”

To join the Arbor Day Foundation and help plant trees in our national forests, send a $10 membership contribution to Replanting Our National Forests, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410, or visit arborday.org/july.

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I Am Staying In My Post As Iowa/Nebraska NAACP Education Chair PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jonathan Narcisse   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 10:42
After the resignation of Rev. Keith Ratliff as the President of the Iowa/Nebraska Conference of the NAACP, which followed the National Board’s decision to support gay marriage as a civil right, I have been asked by several members of the media if I intend to stay on as Education Chair for the Iowa/Nebraska Conference of the NAACP.

I do not mean to diminish the issue, but over the past few years the advocates of marriage equality and the opponents of same-sex marriage have, through their actions, asserted this is the only issue that matters.

Period.

As Education Chair of the Iowa/Nebraska conference of the NAACP and, as a former Director of the Des Moines School Board, I have witnessed Iowa’s academic crisis, especially the urban academic crisis, worsen to a near state of emergency.  Yet, most Iowans remain ignorant of the important data and proposed solutions to these solvable problems while the body politic and the media refuse to report, and at times, even acknowledge the severity of this crisis.

For example, Labor Day weekend 2010, the Culver Administration made available devastating findings naming every single school district , every single high school, and every single middle school except two, in Iowa’s ten largest cities as “Officially Failing.”

The Culver administration's tradition was to make available to the public annual academic updates over the holiday weekend when Labor Day celebrations and the opening of the Iowa and Iowa State football seasons dominated the media cycle.

This annual attempt to bury the decline in urban academic achievement was assisted by major media and legislators who, after being provided the data by me personally, still refused to report the findings.
Instead of sharing with Iowans tax dollar financed conclusions, major media rationalized why the numbers meant very little and key legislators simply denied or denounced the findings.

Meanwhile the number of stories on gay marriage in Iowa's leading publications, month after month, has far exceeded coverage of Iowa's most populated areas' failing education performances.
Issues like poverty, justice, and welfare dependency have been equally ignored by both media and the body politic in our state. These issues are inseparable from the caliber of education our students receive, especially in Iowa and Nebraska's urban districts.

As a long time education advocate I cannot walk away from the opportunity to continue making a difference in the lives of both the students in the Iowa and Nebraska education systems and the communities impacted by education.

Effective education especially improves an urban center's economy and reduces societal ills like poverty, incarceration rates, addiction and social welfare dependency. Poor, unaccountable education in urban areas has the opposite impact.

Politicians keep talking about creating jobs – nothing improves job security more than providing relevant education to this generation. Unfortunately many job applicants struggle with passing drug screens and filling out applications legibly.
Health and Human Services, Education and Justice – all areas ballooning in cost to taxpayers primarily due to the dismal education students receive - commands approximately 90% of Iowa's annual general fund appropriations.

Consideration of, discussion about, and any solutions to this vicious circle of dependency command significantly less attention and focus from media, lobbyists and politicians than does marriage equality versus same-sex marriage.

Part of the reason I was asked to serve as Education Chair of the Iowa/Nebraska Conference of the NAACP is my statewide advocacy for all children, including our state's white students, during my tenure as President of the State of Black Iowa Initiative.

Through our landmark statewide education hearings we made many discoveries. It surprised no one when we documented the crisis amongst Iowa's Black students.  The front cover of the 2001 State of Black Iowa Report reads:

A State of Emergency
On October 29, 2001, Dr. Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent of the Des Moines Independent Community School District, gave opening remarks at the State of Black Iowa Initiative's Des Moines hearing addressing Iowa's Black Academic Crisis. Soon after his presentation started, emotions were running high. An already grim picture of Black Iowa got progressively worse. Especially when he announced 81% of the Black students enrolled in the Des Moines School District live in poverty.
A floor, not a ceiling, the 81% figure only includes those students willing to claim their poverty status - not all the poor Black students in the district. And if it's this bad for Des Moines, it's worse in Davenport and Waterloo - Black communities much poorer than Des Moines' Black community. It also means the poverty level for children under five is approaching 90% in our state's largest Black community.

Our education hearings produced a number of things from national media coverage to a White House collaboration. It also, due to its thoroughness, unearthed an emerging white academic crisis that the powerful in this state were loathe to acknowledge.

While our education advocacy in general was enthusiastically embraced our pronouncement that the emerging white academic crisis rose to the level of a Civil Rights concern was all but ignored even when I took the data to federal education officials, state education and political leaders, and major media.

Then, the first real breakthrough on this issue took place.  Carol Hunter, Editor of the Des Moines Register’s Editorial Board, asked me in the spring of 2006 to write a piece on the black academic crisis. I agreed to do so if she would also publish our work on the white academic crisis in this state.

Soon after she published my piece on the black academic crisis. Then, on December 28, 2006, she published the reprinted below piece on Iowa's white academic crisis.

The data driven commentary was dismissed by politicians, business leaders and educators as were subsequent warnings until my last year on the Des Moines School board when state reports confirmed the largest group in crisis were not kids on free and reduced lunch but affluent and middle class white kids. Despite the fact children of means were a super minority in our district – approximately a third – they comprised more than 50% of the district’s dropouts.

I remember standing across from Central Campus on the lawn of WHO-TV saying to the stunned reporter, “Our dropouts look like you, not me.”  While I did not take comfort in these findings I was pleased that after nearly a decade of sounding the alarm notice was finally being taken.

Then on November 1, 2011, a decade after I brought the issue to light, Jason Glass, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, issued a solemn and ominous call to action stating, "White students, who make up about 80 percent of Iowa’s student population, have fallen behind their white peers nationally. This problem persists across the assessed grade levels and content areas."

A decade of denial has endangered the future prosperity of our state. The untreated sickness not only has spread amongst our urban districts where high poverty and academic failure thrives, we find 68% of the students in Washington County on free and reduced lunch and less than 20% of our state’s students college ready.

I am not going to abandon years of advocacy on the most critical issue facing our state – Education – just because advocates on all sides of the gay marriage issue have concluded no other concerns matter. They may not care about our kids, families, economy or the future of Iowa – I do.  I am going to continue this education advocacy as outlined in the white paper entitled "Restoring Our World Class Education Plan", linked here as a PDF.

Systemic solutions are critical, especially in light of the Nancy Sebring (former Des Moines School District Superintendent) revelations (not the sex), which lay bare the vulnerabilities of school boards and education systems to manipulations and the abuse of power both in Iowa and Nebraska.

Sebring's selection as the Omaha School District's Superintendent, in the face of her very public record of academic failure as superintendent in Des Moines, proves just how important continuing in this unique chairperson role is.

Recently my focus has been on improving what families themselves can do to improve their children's education accountability. It is not all the system’s fault.  Parents must ultimately reclaim their authority. This void of parental participation contributes greatly to the poor education and basic preparedness of Iowa and Nebraska's children.

Going forward, the pressure on both the state departments of education, and our school district board of directors, must intensify.
Our children deserve no less, and will receive my best.

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The commentary below orginally appeared in the Des Moines Register on December 28, 2006

Too many kids failing in school, whites included

Iowa View

There's been a welcome focus recently on the so-called achievement gap between this community's white students and students of color, who face severe academic challenges.

But so do white kids.

The federal No Child Left Behind law forced the disaggregation of academic data. The goal: to identify academic failure previously hidden in aggregated data. Now, for the first time in our nation's history, achievement data are readily available by racial and socioeconomic breakdowns.

Unfortunately, the law did not anticipate the manipulation of data, particularly relating to white kids. As a result, countless white kids in academic crisis are hidden, if not erased, by the education bureaucracy.

For example, the Des Moines school district reported 97.9 percent of its juniors (1,624 out of 1,659) in 2004-05 took the Iowa Test of Education Development. The school board praised then-Superintendent Eric Witherspoon's administration. The feds claimed victory for raising participation levels of kids tested. What has never been addressed is the fact that 2,624 sophomores were served by the district less than 12 months earlier. Of the 1,000 unaccounted-for students, nearly 70 percent of them were white.

In 2000-01, the Des Moines district served 2,301 white kids as freshmen, but 357, or 15.5 percent of them, never made it to a traditional four-year high school, instead attending night school or alternative-education programs. In 2000-01, 936 black, Latino, Asian and Indian kids were served as freshmen, with 108, or 11.5 percent, never reaching a traditional four-year school. Why is a higher percentage of white kids hidden from our traditional high schools than children of color?

The problem for white kids begins well before high school. According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, only 37 percent of Iowa 's white kids by fourth grade in 2003-04 were proficient in reading and only 39 percent were proficient in math. That's a high point .

White kids of all socioeconomic classes from fifth grade through eighth grade experience massive academic declines. Internal Des Moines district tests show 20- to 40-point declines in reading, math or science among our non-poor white population from fifth through eighth grade. Schools like McCombs, Weeks and Hiatt see academic failure rates for white kids approaching 80 percent or more in reading, math or science.

By high school, failure has reached a critical mass. In 2000-01, 597 students, or 25.9 percent of the white freshmen served, failed to earn a single credit. The district served 2,301 white kids as freshman that year, but only 1,442, or 62.7 percent, of white students made it to the junior class.

The Des Moines school board reported 84 percent of the white freshmen from 2000-01 graduated in 2003-04. Yet the data actually show only 1,101, or 47.8 percent, of white students graduated in 2003-04. Our traditional high schools served 1,944 white freshmen in 2000-01, but only 1,068, or 54.9 percent, graduated in 2003-04.
At East, which served 450 white freshmen in 2000-01, 216 graduated, or 48 percent. At Hoover , there were 276 white freshmen and 170 graduates, or 61.6 percent. At Lincoln, 659 freshmen and 351 graduates, or 53.3 percent. At North, 235 freshmen and 108 graduates, or 46 percent. And at Roosevelt, 324 freshmen and 223 graduates, or 68.8 percent.

Even among our college-bound white students, recent reports document less than a third are prepared to perform postsecondary work at a competent level.

One of the tragic consequences of white supremacy is that it sacrifices many whites, especially children, to maintain the myth of superiority. Iowa was settled, after the Black Hawk purchase, by poor whites fleeing the economic consequences of slavery.

The late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. died fighting for white workers in Memphis .
Racism is wrong. The sacrifice of white children to service a bureaucracy is wrong, too. All our children, including the white ones, deserve a voice and opportunity.

JONATHAN NARCISSE is president of the State of Black Iowa Initiative .

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Gov. Branstad announces parade details PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Governor's Office   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 13:38

“A Salute to Our Veterans and Service Members Parade” will take place Sat., June 30

(DES MOINES) – Today, Gov. Terry Branstad announced additional details regarding this Saturday’s “A Salute to Our Veterans and Service Members Parade.”

 

This year’s celebration is a salute to all veterans and service members and correlates with the official United States Department of Defense Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and 60th Anniversary of the Korean War.

“It is important to honor our heroes here at home,” said Branstad. “As a former member of the Army, and now Commander in Chief of the Iowa National Guard, I am proud of the men and women who represent our state on the battlefields across the world and when disaster strikes here on the home front.”

The parade will kick off from the State Capitol and travel down Grand Ave. to disperse at Veteran’s Auditorium/Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. The parade route map can be viewed here.

Saturday’s parade will officially begin at 10 a.m. with a fly-over by the 132nd Fighter Wing down Grand Ave. City of Des Moines police vehicles and official colors are scheduled to start the parade on the ground. There is no grand marshal for the event, rather a riderless horse will lead the parade participants. A riderless horse is a traditional entry to represent fallen soldiers. The governor will walk in the parade wearing his military uniform.

Spectators are invited to watch the free parade and honor Iowans for their service. Observers can expect to see a variety of parade entries included, but not limited to:

  • Veterans and Service members
  • Various military groups, battalions, bands, and vehicles
  • Budweiser Clydesdales
  • Wells Fargo Stage Coach
  • The Iowa Veterans Home Eagle Bus
  • American Red Cross
  • Secretary of State’s Honor a Veteran
  • VFW Posts
  • Raccoon River Riders Equestrian Drill Team
  • Specially wrapped trucks from DMACC and Hy-Vee

The parade developed off a similar event that Gov. Branstad held in 1991 to welcome home soldiers from the first Iraq war. The Governor’s office has been working in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs and Iowa National Guard to coordinate the details of the parade.

 

 

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