Des Moines, Iowa — Three Republicans have joined all 26 Democrats in the Iowa Senate in voting for a bill that would “terminate” Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to shift 560-thousand Medicaid patients in Iowa into managed care plans.
That’s Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan. Johnson says it took Minnesota 20 years to make such a shift, while Iowa is trying to do it in less than a year.
Meanwhile, our area’s other Republican state senator, Randy Feenstra from Hull is in favor of privatization. He says the push for saving money on Medicaid is due to the federal government massively expanding those who can get Medicaid. He says that caused the large increases in spending. He says, “a large portion of these dollars goes toward Iowans that have significant disabilities, those who may be at (the) Village [Northwest Unlimited] or Hope Haven.”
He says that he doesn’t begrudge those new to Medicaid; but says it has hurt those who truly need it for life assistance.
He says he supports Branstad’s privatization plan, but he says it should remain at the current funding levels and oversight needs to be created so the new private companies do a better job than government of the past. He says it can work, but a lot of concerns need to be resolved.
Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, has an adult daughter with intellectual disabilities who gets health care coverage through Medicaid. Her daughter’s doctors haven’t signed contracts with the private managed care companies that soon will run the program, so she’s calling doctors in Wisconsin, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids who have.
Jochum says she and other senators are hearing those kind of stories from hundreds of Iowans who are the caregiver for their child, their sibling or their parent who can’t negotiate the system themselves.
This senate bill will NOT be considered in the Republican-led House, however. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, suggests it’s a waste of time to pass a bill that will be vetoed by Governor Branstad.
Governor Branstad’s administration hopes to start switching Medicaid patients into privately managed care March 1st, but must obtain a federal waiver to do so. Federal officials ordered a 60-day delay in December, along with a list of steps that had to be taken to address “chaos” associated with the switch.
Branstad’s office has released a statement saying, “Old Medicaid does not incentivize outcomes. Through managed care, Iowans’ health care delivery will improve by offering preventive services above and beyond what currently is available, through reducing emergency room visits, hospitalizations and surgeries, and eliminating unnecessary or duplicative services.”