Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up ... to the spring outlook for Mississippi River flooding in the Quad-Cities. OK, the probability that there will be major flooding is at 59%, but that's a lot better than the February estimate, which was an alarming 95%.

Major flooding along the Mississippi River is defined as 18 feet at Lock and Dam 15.

Along the Rock River in Moline, the major flooding outlook fell from a 35% probability to 26%.

The National Weather Service in the Quad-Cities says that the reason for the change was the relatively dry stretch of weather since the first estimate was released and a slower snow melt up north.

The weather service says the chance of moderate flooding on the Mississippi, which is defined as 16 feet, still remains at 95%. So, yes, the spring outlook is a mixed bag. But it's better than it was, and with all the other bad news out there, it brings some relief.

Thumbs Down ... to continued indifference to the federal debt. The Government Accountability Office's annual report to Congress this week about the nation's fiscal health is subtitled, "Action is Needed to Address the Federal Government's Fiscal Future."

To say the least.

The GAO isn't telling us anything we don't already know. The public, Congress, the White House — we all know that the federal government doesn't balance its books.

For the record, the GAO warned that the $16.8 trillion debt held by the public in fiscal 2019 is now at 79% of Gross Domestic Product, which is far higher than the average 46% since 1946.

(We would note that debt held by the public is but a subset of total debt, which was $22.8 trillion in fiscal 2019).

For years, both parties have ignored, or exacerbated, the nation's fiscal imbalance, while honest budget watchdogs have wrung their hands.

In its report, the GAO says that "early action is important" (sound familiar?).

We know it is not fashionable to worry about the debt, but we do. And the GAO's report is an annual reminder that the longer we wait, the worse things will get.

Thumbs Up ... to some pretty good advice that came from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, earlier this week on who we should listen to about COVID-19: Not the politicians.

"There's some conflicting information coming out, so I'd encourage folks to forget about listening to political leaders on the subject,” Grassley said on Wednesday. "Listen to our public health experts and our professional leaders, both at the state and federal government."

The Des Moines Register reported that Grassley wasn’t referring to a specific politician, but only pointing out that politicians aren’t the experts on this subject.

We would echo the idea that public health experts are the people we all should be heeding at this point. And they need to feel free to speak their minds, absent of pressure or heavy-handed oversight from self-interested politicians.

Now is not the time to consider the political downsides or the public relations risks of fighting this pandemic. It is time to put that aside and pay attention to the people who do this for a living. And they should be as frank as possible about what we're facing.

Thumbs Up ... to what looks like progress with Iowa’s Medicaid managed-care program. The Department of Human Services gave an update this week to the House Oversight Committee on what’s being done about MCOs not paying health care providers and being too aggressive in asking for prior authorization for services.

"It left me feeling positive," said Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, a Des Moines Democrat and ranking member of the panel.

We have been critical of the state’s headlong rush into privatizing the program that provides health care for 600,000 Iowans. Among the biggest problems has been that MCOs haven’t been making payments on time. That has strained local health care providers.

Gov. Kim Reynolds withheld $44 million from Iowa Total Care in January. State officials and the MCO have been meeting to resolve the situation.

There has been a lot that’s gone wrong with Medicaid since it was privatized. We’re happy that this week delivered some good news.


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