The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 11, 2013

Feds back most of Iowa's Medicaid expansion plan

Associated Press

---- — DES MOINES — Federal authorities on Tuesday approved Iowa’s proposal to expand low-income health care, but they aren’t giving Gov. Terry Branstad as much flexibility as he sought to charge premiums on the very poor.

With that exception, officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service announced that Iowa’s request was granted with “virtually all the initiatives the state has proposed.”

“Iowa has pioneered innovative, state-based solutions for Medicaid expansion, and we are pleased to grant this waiver,” said CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a news release. “CMS stands ready to work with other states to explore options that aim to improve care and lower costs in the Medicaid program.”

A spokesman for Branstad for did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment.

Iowa sought a waiver enabling the state to receive more federal Medicaid money for the proposed Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, a new health insurance program which would cover up to 150,000 residents not on the current Medicaid plan.

Under the proposal, the state would take federal funding to create a new health plan for some poor residents and to pay the premiums for other low-income Iowans to get private insurance on the new health care exchanges.

The state wanted to charge small monthly premiums to those with incomes over half of the federal poverty line starting in 2015. Federal officials said Iowa could only charge those with incomes above 100 percent of poverty. The premiums would be waived if people meet certain health goals and the out-of-pocket costs could not exceed five percent of their annual income.