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Democratic legislators applaud decision to delay Medicaid privatization, while Branstad praises “green light” to move forward

Amanda Ragan
Amanda Ragan

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic legislators and their nemesis, Republican Governor Terry Branstad, both claimed a victory after a decision by the federal government concerning the governor’s push to privatize Medicaid here in Iowa.

A joint statement by Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City, Chair of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Liz Mathis of Robins, Chair of the Senate Human Resources Committee:

“The decision today by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to delay implementation of Medicaid privatization is a victory for Medicaid recipients and providers.

“The decision echoes many of the concerns that thousands of Iowans have been telling us for months: the privatization plan proposed by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration is too much, too fast and failing to protect vulnerable Iowans.”

The letter from CMS Director Vikki Wachino states:

‘CMS previously outlined the requirements to provide high quality, accessible care to Medicaid beneficiaries, and Iowa has not yet met those requirements, meaning that a transition on January 1 would risk serious disruptions in care for Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries.’

Other concerns raised by the letter include:

  • The arbitrary and unrealistic implementation timeline
  • The failure to establish adequate provider networks in advance
  • Disruptions of longstanding patient-provider relationships
  • Diminished quality and access to health care services
  • Compromised patient care
  • Inadequate systems to communicate accurate information to patients and providers

“Despite this delay, we want to reiterate to Iowans that this fight is not over. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans and their health care providers are still struggling to make sense of Governor Branstad’s chaotic approach to privatizing health care services for one out of six Iowans.  Governor Branstad’s Medicaid plan will be remembered as one of the worst decisions of his 21 years as governor.

“Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature must make correcting Governor Branstad’s mistake our top health care priority for the 2016 legislative session.  We must find a way to minimize the harm being imposed on Iowa families and health care providers.

“One of the first actions of the 2016 session should be for the Iowa Legislature to pass comprehensive Medicaid oversight legislation. Last spring, the Iowa Senate approved an oversight bill (Senate File 452) that was never considered by the House.

“Unlike Governor Branstad’s plan that has benefitted only out-of-state corporations, this legislation will be developed in public meetings with the advice of Medicaid recipients and their advocates, Iowa’s health care providers, and national experts.

“We are hopeful that legislators from both parties will listen, debate, and then act to protect the Medicaid safety net that Iowa families count on.”

At the same time, Governor Terry Branstad released the following statement in response to CMS’s decision on Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization waivers:

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

“The decision by CMS formally puts the wheels in motion to implement our Medicaid Modernization plan on March 1.  The CMS letter effectively gives the green light to Iowa as long as steps are taken to build on the progress already made.  Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization plan is similar to plans CMS has granted approval to in 39 other states.  From the very beginning, our focus has been on improving patients’ health outcomes.  Current Medicaid patients should continue working with their Managed Care Organizations for a March 1 kick-off.”

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