State News

Opioid Epidemic Raises Risk of Drug Diversion 

A Des Moines Register article on March 6, highlighted cases of six nursing home employees who have been indicted for drug diversion in Iowa.  The employers identified the potential diversion and properly reported the incidents, but the article serves as an important reminder of the Opioid crisis in the country and how employers need to be vigilant about monitoring for potential drug diversion.  

The Iowa Department of Public Health has released a report of efforts underway in Iowa to combat the crisis.  Other helpful resources have been gathered to help educate and support consumers and providers on strategies to combat Opioid abuse and Comfort Resources on how to still provide safe comfort care amidst the Opioid epidemic.

IA Health Link Members Have a New Choice 

Iowa Total Care, a new Managed Care Organization (MCO), will start serving Iowa Medicaid members effective July 1, 2019.  Iowa Total Care will join Amerigroup and UnitedHealthcare in providing medical benefits to members of the IA Health Link program. 

Starting March 4, 2019, an Open Choice Period will be available for all IA Health Link members through June 18, 2019. During this time, IA Health Link members can choose one of the three MCOs for medical coverage effective July 1, 2019. Until then, members will remain with their current MCO.  

Throughout March, Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) will be mailing information about the Open Choice Period to all members of the IA Health Link program. Members will receive an MCO assignment which may be different than the MCO they are currently enrolled with; however, members can choose any MCO to enroll with during the Open Choice Period. 

Members can change their MCO by:

  1. Email: Email Iowa Medicaid Member Services at [email protected]
  2. Mail: Return a MCO Enrollment Form to: Member Services, PO Box 36510, Des Moines, IA 50315
  3. Phone: Call Iowa Medicaid Member Services at 1-800-338-8366 or locally in the Des Moines area at 515-256-4606. (Automated phone service is available 24 hours a day.) 

Due to the Member Open Choice Period, members may experience longer wait times when calling Iowa Medicaid Member Services. Members are encouraged to mail or email their MCO choice. 

Following July 1, 2019, members may change their MCO for any reason until September 30, 2019. After that, members may change their MCO for reasons of good cause or during their annual choice period. 

More information about the Member Open Choice Period can be found here


New DIA Director Started March 1 

In late February, Governor Reynolds announced that Larry Johnson, Jr., would serve as the next director of the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals effective March 1, 2019.   

The new Director Johnson previously served as the state’s public defender and was deputy legal counsel in the Governor’s Office for four-and-a-half years before serving as legal counsel.  He also worked in the private sector at a Des Moines metro law firm practicing administrative law.  Johnson has degrees in law from the Creighton University School of Law and management from Purdue University.

“Over the past eight years, it’s been an honor to serve Governor Reynolds and the people of Iowa,” said Johnson. “With the appointment to lead the Department of Inspection and Appeals,  I look forward to enhancing service in the important areas of public safety and regulatory compliance.” 

LAI had the opportunity to meet Director Johnson this week to provide some background on the association, issues of interest for our members, and express interest in greater collaboration.  Director Johnson plans to attend the LAI Spring Conference on May 1-2 to meet members and learn more about the field.


Medical Cannabidiol Guidance 

The Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) recently met with representatives from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to discuss the storage, handling, and administration of medical cannabidiol in health care facilities. 

Some of the relevant take-aways include:

  • There is currently no provision in state law for a "facility caregiver."  Only the patient and/or a designated caregiver would be able to pick up the medication from the dispensary.
  • From the DPH perspective, there are no rules/requirements regarding who could "administer" the cannabidiol as long as it was a patient or designated caregiver (no specific licensure or certification required, e.g., RN, CMA, etc.).  However, from the Board of Pharmacy perspective, since the medication is a Schedule I drug, the applicable storage and handling requirements would apply.  That is, only the resident and the designated caregiver would be able to store, access and administer the drug.  Facility staff could not do so.
  • Iowa law does NOT prohibit a physician from writing an order for medical cannabidiol, although IDPH representatives indicated that a physician doing so seemed highly unlikely.  Many physicians are reluctant to provide the certification required, let alone write an "order" for the use of cannabidiol.   
Overall, the meeting underscored that the use of medical cannabidiol in regulated entities would be extremely difficult to implement within the current law.  Changes will possibly occur that will alter the landscape in the future.

Nominations for Governor’s Quality Care Award Close March 22 

Nominations are open for the 2019 Governor’s Award for Quality Care in Health Care Facilities until March 22. The Governor's Award recognizes Iowa health care facilities that offer unique or innovative activities to enhance the quality of care or quality of life for their residents. 

All health care facilities licensed under Iowa Code chapter 135C, which include nursing facilities, residential care facilities, and intermediate care facilities, including those facilities specializing in the care of persons with mental illness or intellectual disabilities are eligible for the award. (Assisted living programs, elder group homes, or hospital-based nursing facilities are not eligible as these are licensed under a different code chapter.)  Since the first awards were presented in 2001, a total of 56 awards have been presented to 49 individual facilities. 

Nominations must come from residents and/or family and be postmarked by March 22, 2019. The nomination forms on the Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) website at

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