State Ombudsman sees drop in complaints

DES MOINES — State Ombudsman Bernardo Granwehr  says complaints to his office about government services were down in the latest fiscal year compared to the past two.

“The COVID pandemic really contributed to a surge in complaints in our office, and quite a bit, I think, from the corrections area,” he says. “And so what we are seeing, I think, in terms of our statistics, and sort of the drop in cases is really kind of a pulling back of some of those pandemic era cases. ”

Granwehr says many of the complaints from inmates revolved around health related issues and conditions of confinement. He says some of the complaints were justified, but for many they advised the person making the complaint to first go through any grievance process. “Because we certainly don’t want to be a substitute for an established grievance process, we instead want to provide oversight if the grievance process maybe failed in some sort of, in some way,” he says.

While the number of complaints dropped, they were still the third most his office received behind each of the last two years. Granwehr says outside of complaints about corrections there were concerns raised about the Health and Human Services Department He says families of Medicaid members were concerned they didn’t get enough information that the estate of the person covered would have to repay those fees to the state when they died. “A little bit of a surprise for people who use those services, and are pleased to report the since that time, the Department of Health and Human Services has really placed an emphasis on providing estate recovery information,” he says.

Granwehr says that information in the enrollment notices and letters let people make an informed decision prior to signing up for those Medicaid benefits. He says they don’t want to discourage complaints to his office, but says every needs to follow the processes of the government agency first. “Because obviously, we can’t  evaluate it if we don’t give it a chance to work. But you know, obviously, yeah, that is definitely the first option. And then after that, we can take a look at it and see if, you know, the process worked appropriately and the complainant was fairly treated,” Granwehr says.

The nearly 6000 cases in the last fiscal year was a drop of seven-and-a-half percent from the previous year.