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Wednesday Afternoon News, November 13

Iowa Lawmakers Set Earlier Legislative Deadlines

(Des Moines) -- Top Iowa lawmakers have decided to move up some key deadlines in the 2014 legislative calendar, signaling a desire for a shorter session next year.  The legislative timetable was recently adjusted to reflect earlier procedural deadlines for proposed bills.  For example, that means bills must now receive committee-level approval in the House or Senate by Feb. 21, instead of Feb. 28 as originally planned.  If not approved by that date, most bills are considered dead for the session.  Republican House Speaker, Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, says he expected a "focused" session.  Paulsen says the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-majority Senate agreed to the schedule changes.  Paulsen didn't give a goal for adjournment but says he wouldn't be surprised to conclude before the 100-day timeframe during which members get daily expense payments.


Wellmark To Be Reviewed

(Des Moines) -- A consultant has been hired to see whether the state's dominant health insurer has the right amount of customer's money tucked away in reserve.  Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart's office has hired Risk and Regulatory Consulting to check the reserve held by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Gerhart says state regulation changes justify the review.  He also says the fact he's ordered the review doesn't suggest there is anything wrong with Wellmark's holding of $1.3 billion in reserve.  State Senators Jack Hatch and Matt McCoy have said the reserves is too high and some of the money should go back to customers.  The company says the reserve level is necessary to ensure that Wellmark can pay medical bills for policyholders.

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