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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Branstad wants to meet with feds on health plan

By CATHERINE LUCEY | Sep 19, 2013

DES MOINES (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad is seeking to meet with federal officials in Washington to urge them to approve Iowa’s proposal to expand low-income health care, an aide said Wednesday.

Health care policy adviser Michael Bousselot said the administration has sought meetings with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and with White House officials. He said plans for those meetings were being finalized for early next week when Branstad will be in Washington.

The clock is ticking for the approval, as the new health care marketplaces open for enrollment Oct. 1. Bousselot said state officials are still negotiating some plan details but expect to get the formal sign-off by then.

Iowa lawmakers in May approved legislation that accepts federal dollars offered to states that expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The plan would cover an estimated 150,000 low-income Iowans, but not on the current Medicaid plan.

Under the Iowa plan, those with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty line would go on a new state-run health plan with benefits similar to those offered to state workers. People with incomes from 101 to 138 percent of poverty would get private health plans on the new health care exchanges; those premiums would be paid for with the federal dollars.

The state would be able to opt out of the coverage responsibilities if the federal government doesn’t honor the financial commitment. And some participants will have to meet health requirements, such as annual physicals, or face financial contributions.

“The Legislature and the governor came together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a solution for health care,” Bousselot said. “The solution isn’t exactly what Obamacare looks like, but it’s a solution that really is a bipartisan plan that uniquely fits Iowa.”

Branstad submitted the proposal to federal authorities last month. In a letter to Sebelius, Branstad noted another reason the state doesn’t want any delay. Some of those 150,000 people are currently on a limited-benefit state health plan that is set to expire by the end of the year. Without the new program in place, they could lose coverage.

Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement that the agency is eager to work with Iowa, as it has with other states.

“HHS is committed to supporting state flexibility and working with states to design Medicaid programs that work for them, within the confines of the law,” Levy said. “HHS stands ready to work with states to explore options that improve care and lower costs in the Medicaid program.”

The Iowa approach is similar to the plan in Arkansas, which is seeking to use federal money to purchase private insurance. Arkansas also is waiting on approval.

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