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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Jochum calls on state auditor to investigate Medicaid savings

Request comes days after DHS estimates change
By Michaela Ramm, The Gazette | May 23, 2018

A state legislator has asked that the auditor’s office look into the Iowa Medicaid program and the managed-care organizations it oversees. The request came after cost-savings estimates released by a state department differed from previous estimates.

Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, sent a letter to State Auditor Mary Mosiman on Tuesday requesting that her office seek documentation from the Iowa Department of Human Services and the private companies that administer Medicaid coverage “to determine if Iowans are really saving money by paying out of state, for-profit insurance companies to care for our most vulnerable,” according to the letter obtained by The Gazette.

“Auditor Mosiman has said her unofficial office motto is, ‘In God We Trust … Everyone Else We Audit,’ Jochum said in a news release Tuesday. “That’s exactly the attitude we should all take to the suspect claims being made about Iowa’s disastrous Medicaid privatization.”

Bernardo Granwehr, chief of staff and legal counsel for the state auditor, confirmed his office received a letter from Jochum. Her request is under review, he said, and therefore he would not comment further on the matter.

The request comes after DHS, which oversees the state Medicaid program, released a new state savings estimate Thursday — which was sent to Jochum in a one-page letter, described by the senator as an “inadequate response.”

The estimate claimed the state has saved a “projected annual range” of $140.9 million. DHS did not clarify how officials calculated those numbers.

The $140.9 million figure is much higher than the estimates released in the department’s last quarterly report published this past December. That report stated Iowa was estimated to save $47.1 million for the current budget year, which ends in June.

In addition, this estimate also differed from the initial figures released before Iowa’s Medicaid program was privatized, when then-Gov. Terry Branstad stated Iowa would be saving up to $232 million by this budget year.

“The amount of savings predicted and reported by the Iowa Department of Human Services has continually changed,” Jochum said in her Tuesday letter to Mosiman.

“Iowans deserve a better answer. Iowans deserve to know if their taxpayer funds are being used in the most efficient way.”

Jochum did not immediately respond to The Gazette’s request for comment.

Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, echoed Jochum’s comments, saying the department needed to be transparent as to how it came by the new estimate.

“For them to send a very simplified version of how they concluded what the cost savings are is an insult not only to legislators, but to taxpayers who are funding the system,” Mathis said to The Gazette.

Privatization of Medicaid was touted as a cost-saving measure before its implementation in April 2016, when three private insurance companies took over for the state. The $5 billion program now provides coverage for nearly 600,000 poor, disabled and elderly Iowans.

Critics have said the shift has created serious challenges, including cuts to member services and a backlog of unpaid claims to agencies providing care.


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