View as webpage, click here.
FEBRUARY 12, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Some Iowa school districts have dropped the childhood parties we remember – the forced card exchanges, the heart-shaped Jell-O Jigglers, the handmade Valentine’s Day boxes. As a child, I annually covered a cylindrical Quaker Oats container with tinfoil, then added red construction paper hearts. I was very proud of those shiny mailboxes.

The problem is that Valentine’s Day parties often shut out kids and families that can’t afford cards, candy or contributions to a classroom celebration.

Here is an easy, impactful way to spread love this week: Donate a box or two of children’s valentines to an elementary teacher that you know – or even better, give them to a high-poverty school where the kids still exchange valentines. (As far as I know, most DMPS schools still participate.)

In this week’s Fearless e-newsletter, you will find:

  • A news story about a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage for up to 12 months postpartum. The bill will make it through funnel week and is moving quickly through the Iowa Legislature.
  • A guest column by Fulbright Scholar Eleanor Hildebrandt, who overcame imposter syndrome while teaching English in Germany.
  • In the headlines: The emergence of Caitlin Clark carries far-reaching implications — social, financial, semi-existential — for basketball, for Iowa and for the long and sometimes halting march of women’s athletics in America.
  • In case you missed it: ChildServe’s Des Moines venue on Woodland Avenue will be relocated to a new site near the corner of 48th Street and Franklin Avenue that will more than double the square footage of the current space.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Plan to expand Medicaid coverage for pregnant Iowans – while tightening income threshold – advances in Legislature
Getty Photos.
A proposal to extend the duration of Medicaid coverage for pregnant Iowans has widespread support, but some activists are concerned about the state potentially lowering the income threshold to participate in the program, saying it would shut out low-wage working moms who desperately need prenatal care.

Many of the people who spoke publicly about the bill at a subcommittee meeting on Feb. 5 at the Capitol said they had mixed feelings about it – gratitude, but also concern.

“One of the things that I think needs to be the backdrop as we talk about this is we have a maternal mortality crisis. We have an infant mortality crisis. This is a single policy lever that you can pull to improve the health of moms and babies, but also support our workforce in Iowa,” said Chaney Yeast, director of government relations and family services at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines.

Yeast said that Blank Children’s Hospital supports the bill and that she is grateful to everyone who made it happen, but that she has concerns about a change to the income requirement affecting working moms – and potentially leaving them without prenatal care while pregnant.

“So those are moms that typically are working for small businesses that don’t provide an employer-based insurance program,” Yeast said, noting that many of these women can’t sign up for a health insurance plan that is part of the Affordable Care Act if they find themselves pregnant outside of the open enrollment period.

The Iowa Senate subcommittee unanimously approved Senate Study Bill 3140, which would provide 12 months of continuous postpartum Medicaid coverage for new moms with income at or below 215% of the federal poverty level, often abbreviated as FPL.

Right now, Iowa law allows for just 60 days of Medicaid coverage after a pregnancy ends. Iowa is one of just three states that have not extended postpartum Medicaid for a full year.

Currently, pregnant Iowans can participate in the Medicaid program if their household is at or below 375% of the federal poverty level. If enacted, the eligibility change could affect over 1,000 women a year.

“Iowa currently has the highest [federal poverty level] eligibility in the nation for pregnant women, at 375%. This proposal brings Iowa in line with other states,” said Molly Severn, deputy chief of staff and legislative liaison for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office, which drafted the legislation.

Severn said the new eligibility requirement would be a household income of $42,000 per year or less for a single mom having her first baby; and a household income of $64,000 per year or less for a family of four.

“The governor’s proposal offers coverage for those who truly need it. In fact, even at 215% [of the federal poverty level], Iowa would have the 13th-highest FPL in the nation for pregnant women. It also includes coverage for newborns at 302% FPL through Hawki. This would also be the 13th-highest FPL in the nation for infant coverage,” Severn said.

The full Senate Health and Human Services Committee advanced the bill Feb. 7 on a 9-5 vote, which keeps the proposal alive for debate this year. Republican lawmakers said they were comfortable with the lower eligibility threshold.

“I know Iowa policymakers can do better by pregnant women and babies in this state,” said Sen. Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat. An identical bill is also progressing in the Iowa House.

The year following a birth is especially dangerous for women. More than half of maternal deaths in the United States occur after a birth. Suicide is the No. 1 cause of maternal death in the first year postpartum, according to the Iowa chapter of Postpartum Support International.

Postpartum complications include conditions such as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders; blood clots that if left untreated can cause a pulmonary embolism or death; postpartum cardiomyopathy (heart failure); strokes; hypertension; incontinence, mastitis; postpartum preeclampsia and postpartum eclampsia; infections and sepsis; uncontrolled vaginal bleeding; and more.

Stacy Frelund, government relations director at the American Heart Association, said the bill would help a lot of moms and babies, “especially when we think about how difficult having a baby is. It’s like the stress test of the body.”

Frelund said the American Heart Association is undecided on the bill because of the change related to the income requirements with the federal poverty level – and unintended consequences.

“When you think about Iowa, you think about our workforce, it’s different than other states. Sometimes we have a lot of smaller businesses that might have 10 or fewer employees. … We’ve got farmers, we’ve got people who are helping on the farms, we have people who are taking care of children, day cares.”

Frelund said she is worried about the people living between the old and newly suggested federal poverty level rate who could be shut out of prenatal care.

Guest commentary: My experience overcoming imposter syndrome while teaching abroad
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Hildebrandt.
It was a sunny Tuesday in September, less than a week into my Fulbright grant, when I wandered into Madam Anna Ekke, a cafe in Munich, with a new friend. As we perused the menu and I suggested food options, my friend corrected my pronunciation of every single item. I understood every option without assistance, but as I ordered, the server began to speak in English.

I left lunch feeling defeated and concerned. The next day, a seventh grade student corrected my pronunciation of a word I’d been using in college classes for over a year – in front of the entire class.

While I had only visited Germany once for a 10-day class trip in high school, I’d spoken German on and off for eight years by the time I arrived for my year of teaching English abroad. Upon the realization that my German-speaking skills were not up to par, I also began to feel strong cultural differences and constantly felt lost in translation.

I had so many unanswered questions. Why did my students ask to see my prom photos when the male English teaching assistants I knew were asked about their college educations and what they wanted to do after their year in Germany? How many of the American stereotypes was I fitting into while at work or exploring the city? Did I need to stop showing photos of male friends and former coworkers, so my students would stop asking if they were my husband? Would my German ever improve, or would baristas and cashiers always default to English when they heard my American accent?

Every Fulbright grantee is specifically placed in a city or town that Fulbright Germany and the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst (the German Pedagogical Exchange Service) feel is right for the person. The over 100 grantees for the 2023-24 year are vastly spread out. They all were experiencing their own problems and triumphs, blowing up group chats with both.

There is one other assistant based in Munich and another outside the city, but neither teach at two gymnasiums (grades fifth through 12th) like I do. Some English teaching assistants majored in education or in German, or both, and had no trouble assimilating. Calling friends and family from home always ended in me sharing how lovely my students and colleagues were and how I was getting acquainted with my new city.

When I eventually mentioned my concerns about my German skills, I’d be met with “Well, you’ll get there,” or “I’m sure that’s perfectly normal.” I felt extremely isolated with strong feelings of imposter syndrome, occasionally questioning if I should get on the next flight back to Iowa because I knew it would be easier.

Armed with my journalism skills, I decided to do one of the things I know how to do well: dive in. I researched and signed up to volunteer with three German-American exchange programs, focusing on English literature and question-and-answer sessions for students around my city.

Fulbrights are lucky enough to be partially paid in time, so I used mine to meet people and get to know more about Bavaria. I preemptively put my prom and homecoming photos in my PowerPoint presentations and informed my students that my dates were just boys I am no longer in contact with.

When introducing myself to quieter groups or classes, I ask them to tell me stereotypes they have seen in movies or on TikTok to get it out of the way. The Goethe Institute — a cultural institute that facilitates cultural exchanges and German-language classes — had a Christmas discount, so I signed up for an online course with another Fulbright. I finally settled on an answer to the consistent “Ronaldo versus Messi” professional soccer question, knowing it will still disappoint half the students who ask. And I promised myself that I would never try to pronounce “eichhörnchen” (squirrel) in front of fifth graders again.

Four months into my grant, I regularly refer to Munich as home. I answer people’s questions about trains and directions often. My colleagues say I get asked more often because I look German, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s my “Iowa nice” roots that make me approachable.

My German improves every day, as does my love for the country. During my last semester at the University of Iowa, I accepted a simple philosophy: You miss every shot you don’t take. Luckily, that translated into me trying everything to make my Fulbright year the best one so far. I know I will continue to face challenges wherever life takes me next, but I will always be able to fall back on my persistence and ability to dig in my heels when I want something to work out. We all judge ourselves harsher than anyone else, letting our negative thoughts and worries get the best of us, but we deserve to take mistakes and anxious moments and turn them into growth.

I returned to Madam Anna Ekke in late December. I had a different waiter, but still felt anxious as they took my order and asked clarifying questions. I did not speak a word of English for the few hours I sat planning my week’s lessons. I left feeling refreshed and proud, knowing that Munich is the right place for me.

Eleanor Hildebrandt currently serves as a Fulbright Scholar in Munich, Germany. She has a B.A. in journalism and mass communication and a B.S. in global health studies from the University of Iowa, where she minored in German. Hildebrandt’s writing has been published by the Corridor Business Journal, the Iowa Capital Dispatch and the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah.

Photo by John Mac.
In the headlines
Endless range, boundless swagger: Why Caitlin Clark is different: Her fiery competitiveness, no-look passes and 3-point bombs have made for must-see basketball in Iowa, writes journalist Matt Flegenheimer in this in-depth story in the New York Times. When Caitlin Clark moves — weaving through defensive traffic; waving unsubtly for a teammate’s pass; wriggling free enough to catch, fire, catch fire — people tend to follow. At perpetual sellouts, at home and on the road, crowds approaching 15,000 crane their phones in her general direction from pregame stretches through postgame autograph sessions. Young girls and old men tug at “22” Clark jerseys that flap above their knees. Stewards of the sport, wary from experience, permit themselves to wonder if something might be different this time. “I’ve stayed away from basketball,” said C. Vivian Stringer, the Hall of Fame former coach at Rutgers and Iowa who retired in 2022. “But how can you stay away from Caitlin Clark?” The question carries far-reaching implications — social, financial, semi-existential — for Clark’s sport, her state and the long and sometimes halting march of women’s athletics in America.

More than 20,000 Iowa crime victims could lose services under looming federal funding cuts: Iowa agencies that provide support and services to victims of violent crimes say a proposed $5.4 million reduction in the state's federal funding under consideration in Congress could cut off help to more than 20,000 Iowans. More than a dozen organizations across the state offer assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, homicide and other violent crimes. Their services range from helping victims find low-income housing to preparing for court appearances to assisting them in filling out applications for jobs or assistance programs. To offer these direct services to clients, these nonprofit agencies rely heavily on a fund established under the federal Victims of Crime Act, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Reynolds’ bill to define man and woman advances as transgender Iowans call it discriminatory: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill that would define “man” and “woman” based on a person’s sex at birth was amended and approved by Republicans on the House Education Committee Tuesday. They removed the part of the bill that would have required transgender Iowans to include their sex assigned at birth on their driver’s licenses. Sex change information would still be required on transgender Iowans’ birth certificates, according to this story from Iowa Public Radio. The vote was 15-8, with all Republicans present voting for the amended bill and all Democrats voting against it. The amendment was made just a few hours after Republicans on a House subcommittee advanced the original version of the bill. Democrats have requested a public hearing on the bill, which would have to be scheduled before the bill could go to a vote of the full House of Representatives.

Eastern Iowa couples sue company, say defective materials ruined IVF process: Two Iowa couples are among those suing a company that makes medical devices. The couples claim defective products ruined their efforts to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, according to this story from KCRG. One of the couples lives in Cedar Rapids; the other, in Stanwood. They’re suing CooperSurgical over defective culture media. That’s the liquid that goes in the petri dish where a woman’s egg is fertilized to create embryos. The liquid essentially mimics the environment inside the womb. The lawsuits claim CooperSurgical failed to make sure all the right nutrients were in this liquid before it was packaged and sold to clinics across the country. “We do know that there are at least hundreds, if not thousands, of families across the country who have been impacted by this and had not only their financial situation wiped out but also their hopes and dreams of parenthood,” said Tracey Cowan, the lead attorney in the lawsuits against CooperSurgical.

Worth checking out
Will University of Iowa risk management major help grow Des Moines' slowing insurance sector? (Des Moines Register). The price women pay for networking with high-status people (Wall Street Journal). Now you can buy at-home menopause tests. Are they worth it? (Washington Post). At 116, she has outlived generations of loved ones. But Edie is adored by her entire town. (New York Times). Your employer can now match your student loan repayments as 401(k) contributions (the 19th). The working woman’s newest life hack: Magic mushrooms (Wall Street Journal).
ChildServe to relocate, expand Des Moines location
ChildServe’s Des Moines venue on Woodland Avenue will be relocated to a new site near the corner of 48th Street and Franklin Avenue that will more than double the square footage of the current space, the specialty pediatric health care provider announced Feb. 2. The location is pending final approval from the city of Des Moines, according to a news release.

In 2022, a vacant medical building on the site was razed after it was acquired by Neighborhood Development Corp. ChildServe will build a new facility on the site, a spokesperson said in an email.

To support the expansion, ChildServe also launched in October a $10 million capital campaign titled “Growing Together: The Des Moines Campaign.” Tom Mahoney, ChildServe board member and past president and ITA Group board chairman, is chairing the campaign. For more information, click here.

ChildServe CEO Dr. Teri Wahlig said the organization has “simply outgrown” its current facility.

“Our current waitlists for our signature programs continue to grow, so we know now is the right time to invest in the future for Iowa children and families,” Wahlig said in a prepared statement.

Capacity for current services, including medical child care, its autism day program and rehabilitation therapy services, will increase tenfold at the new location, the release said.

The 20,000-square-foot facility will also include an added neurobehavioral clinic. It will focus on the population of children with special health care needs who have a co-occurring behavioral health need, such as anxiety, ADHD, autism, brain injury, developmental delay or obsessive compulsive disorder.

The expansion is part of ChildServe’s larger regional growth strategy, which includes enhancing its main campuses in Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City and Johnston. The expanded Ames location opened in September 2023 and Iowa City’s renovated space is planned to open this spring. The Johnston campus will remain the organization’s headquarters, the release said.

Be fearless with us
At its core, Fearless exists to help empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. We believe that everyone has a story to share and that we cannot progress as a society unless we know about one another. We share stories through featuring women in our reporting, featuring guest contributions and speakers at our events.

We are always looking for new stories to share and people to feature. Get in touch with us!

Like this newsletter? Please forward to a friend!
Did someone share this newsletter with you? Sign up here.

Business Publications Corporation Inc.

515.288.3336  |

Contact the group publisher of BPC:
Contact Fearless staff writer:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2024, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign