CONTACT: Patricia Harris
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
UI nursing student to combine nursing, politics this summer in Washington,
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa College of Nursing student will
spend the summer combining her nursing skills and knowledge with an interest
in politics when she assists staffers in Sen. Charles Grassley's office
with their work on aging issues and health care.
Teresa Bissen, a 22-year-old UI senior from Defiance, Iowa, will spend
six weeks in Grassley's office starting in late June. She will be a legislative
assistant in the office, focusing her efforts on the work Grassley and
his staff do for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, of which he is
chair. Bissen says she is particularly interested in issues affecting health
care availability for the mentally ill and the aging.
Iowa has one of the highest levels of senior citizens in the country,
many of them living in rural areas, where health care reimbursements from
plans like Medicare tend to be lower than in urban ones. That's because
Medicare rates are based on labor and other costs, which are assumed to
be less in rural areas. Bissen, however, believes that this is often a
misconception. For example, she says, people in rural areas often need
more transportation for longer distances than their urban counterparts.
The disparity of payment levels between urban and rural areas is one
reason there is little or no managed care for Medicare in Iowa - there
isn't enough money from the government to make it attractive to health
maintenance organizations to offer plans.
Bissen says she wants to learn about politics during her time in Washington
and to examine how nurses can work for political change in areas like Medicare
and Medicaid reform.
"I hope to get a feel for the whole political process and how it
affects health care and to examine how nursing fits in to the process,"
she says. "I want to see how the mechanisms work, how to get the ball
While at the National Student Nurses' Association conference in Phoenix
this spring, Bissen drafted a measure supporting the implementation of
the Domenici-Wellstone Mental Illness Partial-Parity Bill. The bill mandates
that insurers with mental health coverage equalize the annual and lifetime
payment caps for mental illness with those for other illnesses. Before
passage of the law in September 1996, some insurers had lower payment caps
for mental illnesses than for other ailments. The law will go into effect
January 1, 1998.
Bissen became interested in mental health issues while she was being
taught by Rose Marie Friedrich, a College of Nursing instructor who is
active in the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Bissen, who will
graduate from the UI in December, hopes to find a post-graduation position
that will allow her to continue the work she will start this summer.