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MARCH 11, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Did you attend the lecture by the authors of "The Thread Collectors" on Thursday at Principal? Look for coverage in next week’s Fearless. Authors Shaunna Edwards and Alyson Richman sat down with Fearless and gave us lots of advice and wisdom, including how women can get started writing their own novels.

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

  • A story about a bipartisan effort in the Iowa Legislature that would require insurers to provide the same coverage for diagnostic mammograms and other supplemental examinations as they do for regular screening mammograms.
  • A story about the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. This time next year, it’s going to look a little different.
  • In the headlines: Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Des Moines Public Schools’ longest-serving board member and the president and CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood, is stepping back from those roles because of significant health challenges.
  • In case you missed it: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced $1 million to support Credentials for Child Care Careers grants.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Bipartisan effort could increase insurance coverage of diagnostic mammograms for Iowans
Getty Photos.
The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to pay for screening mammograms intended to facilitate early detection of breast cancer. But in at least 10% of cases, women are called back to get secondary scans, and the cost of diagnostic mammograms and other procedures is not fully covered by insurance.

Two similar bills advancing in the Iowa Legislature would require insurers to provide the same coverage for diagnostic procedures and other supplemental examinations as they do for regular screening mammograms.

"There are so many people who have breast cancer scares that need workups that are not currently covered by insurance and, because of that, delay their care, delay getting diagnosed, and end up often with far more advanced rates of cancer than would have been if we’d been able to get them the care they needed when they needed it," state Rep. Megan Srinivas, a medical doctor and a Des Moines Democrat, said Feb. 21 before the Iowa House voted 97-0 to approve House File 2489. Rep. Ann Meyer, a Fort Dodge Republican, proposed the bill in January 2023.

About 1 in 8 women in the United States will at some point in their life get a breast cancer diagnosis.

Even in cases where women get a clean bill of health after a diagnostic procedure, under current law, they could be on the hook for hundreds or thousands of dollars in bills.

"This should be seen as a screening, not as a treatment," said state Sen. Cherielynn Westrich, an Ottumwa Republican, at a committee meeting where senators advanced Senate File 2358. Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, a West Des Moines Democrat, noted that over 40% of Iowa women have dense breast tissue; such women are more likely to need additional exams.

The House and Senate bills are nearly identical; the Senate version includes additional language specifying that insurers may not impose any form of cost-sharing for diagnostic procedures. Lobbyists for Wellmark Inc., the Des Moines-based health insurer, are registered against the Senate bill but as "undecided" on the House version. Most other lobbyists monitoring the bills are registered in favor of them.

Over 20 states have passed laws expanding required insurance coverage beyond screening mammograms, according to the industry journal Radiology Business.

"This is something that’s going to help a lot of Iowans, and this is something that could have helped me," said state Rep. Tracy Ehlert, a Cedar Rapids Democrat. "When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last session, it was the MRI that actually caught it. It wasn’t my mammogram and ultrasound that I get on a regular basis."

Both bills specify that the change would cover procedures starting Jan. 1, 2025. The full Senate has not yet taken up its bill. The same bill must pass in both chambers and be signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to become law.

Bridging the gap
Laura Formanek. Photo by Duane Tinkey.
This time next year, the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge is going to look a little different.

In honor of Women’s History Month, in March 2025, local artist Laura Formanek plans to project images, videos and audio clips of significant Iowa women onto the landmark suspension bridge in downtown Des Moines. Grouped in themes, the projections will form a loop for visitors to walk through, from either end, to learn more about Iowa women’s achievements in the past, present and even the future.
The project got a big boost last September, when Formanek won a grant from the Des Moines Arts Festival. She had pitched the idea at the organization’s microgrant dinner and won the grant through a crowd vote. "I was really honored," she said. "It was a really cool way to bring artists together and rally the community behind something."

The Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge was dedicated in 2013 and initially honored four famous women: suffragist Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, philanthropist and civil rights activist Louise Rosenfield Noun, scientist and educator Sister Bernadine Pieper and Gertrude Elzora Durden Rush, the first African American woman to practice law in Iowa. Since then, Women Lead Change, the bridge’s honorary stewards, have added more notable names each year to its memorial display.

For Formanek’s installation, she plans to feature a few of the bridge’s honorees as well as some others. She wants to showcase a diverse range of women and achievements, including Jessie Field Shambaugh, the founding "Mother of 4-H"; Mary Wood, the first Black woman to lead the YWCA; and Esperanza Martinez, a Mexican immigrant whom former Gov. Robert Ray recognized as an Outstanding Citizen of the State.

The artist also hopes to organize a few corresponding events — workshops, artist talks, even a fashion show on the bridge itself. She wants the project to be a community affair and plans to enlist student artists and local organizations in its creation.

Formanek came up with the idea during the pandemic, when she often crossed the bridge and wanted to encourage others to do the same. "I spent a lot of time running and walking in those more solitary, isolated times," she said. "As a woman and a small business owner, I would run across this bridge, and I was like, ‘OK, if these women can achieve great things, I can, too.’"

Learn more: For details about the art project and how to get involved, visit To learn more about Formanek and her other video work, visit her website at

Teree Caldwell-Johnson. Photo by Duane Tinkey.
In the headlines
Des Moines school board member Teree Caldwell-Johnson resigns in wake of health issues: The longest-serving board member for the Des Moines Public Schools, Teree Caldwell-Johnson, who has been battling cancer, has resigned after nearly two decades, according to this story in the Des Moines Register. Caldwell-Johnson has also pulled back from her role as CEO at Oakridge Neighborhood, a Des Moines nonprofit that provides services such as housing for families in need, to focus on her health. Caldwell-Johnson was honored as a Business Record Woman of Influence in 2002 and wrote about Oakridge Neighborhood for Business Publications Corp.'s 2023 Pillars of Philanthropy publication.

Iowa House votes to raise penalty for killing an 'unborn person.' Democrats say it endangers IVF: Iowans would face more prison time for ending a pregnancy without consent under a bill that passed the House on March 7, but that Democrats warn would treat embryos as people and endanger medical procedures such as in-vitro fertilization. Democrats repeatedly raised concerns that the bill could jeopardize in-vitro fertilization treatment in Iowa after a state Supreme Court ruling in Alabama last month found that embryos frozen as part of the IVF process are legally protected as children, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Iowa poised to end gender parity rule for governing bodies as diversity policies targeted nationwide: Iowa has been the only state in the U.S. to explicitly mandate that state, county and local decision-making bodies are balanced by gender. That will end when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill that aligns with a broader abrogation of gender- and race-conscious policies across the country, according to this story by the Associated Press. Civil rights advocates worry the trend will lead to fewer opportunities and more hurdles for diverse voices in U.S. institutions.

Ex-anchor Sonya Heitshusen loses discrimination lawsuit against WHO TV parent company: WHO-13 was not motivated by discrimination when it laid off its oldest female news anchor in 2020, a jury has decided. Sonya Heitshusen, now 56, sued WHO owner Nexstar Media, News Director Rod Peterson and General Manager Bobby Totsch in 2021 and alleged age and gender discrimination. The case went to trial last week, and on March 6, the jury found for the station, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Iowa House passes bill to cap public university tuition, restrict DEI programs: Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill Feb. 29 to cap in-state tuition increases and put restrictions on diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Iowa’s public universities. The bill would also add two lawmakers to the Board of Regents as nonvoting members, and it would make many other changes to higher education policies in Iowa, including some that the universities have already put into motion, according to this story from Iowa Public Radio.

Worth checking out
Activities for adults and kids celebrating Women’s History Month in the Des Moines metro (Des Moines Register). Dasia Taylor: See how one Iowan is using her platform in the STEM field to help inspire the next generation of scientists (Iowa PBS). CVS and Walgreens will begin selling abortion pills this month (New York Times). Iowa senator fears for women's future on boards, commissions (Raccoon Valley Radio). She was harassed at a tech conference. Now other women are sharing #MeToo moments (NPR). Why teachers are still leaving the profession (Wall Street Journal).
Reynolds announces $1 million to support Credentials for Child Care Careers grants
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced $1 million in initial funding for competitive grants to support school districts that partner with or create local child care centers to help more high school students earn a national child development credential.

Through the new Credentials for Child Care Careers grant, available through the Iowa Department of Education, eligible school districts can apply for up to $15,000 for each of the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years, for a total of $30,000. Allowable costs include student exam fees, textbooks, CDA course materials, student stipends, licensed child care partner stipends and other approved expenses that help remove barriers to participation.

Applications for the Credentials for Child Care Careers grant will be accepted until the deadline at noon on March 29. More information is available on the
Iowa Department of Education website.

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