The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Iowa

December 16, 2013

Iowa readies for Medicaid expansion

DES MOINES (AP) — Between the troubled federal insurance enrollment website and uncertainty over Medicaid expansion, the months leading up to the kick-off of President Barack Obama’s new health care law have been bumpy in Iowa. Now, with weeks to go before the program starts, those issues have largely been resolved, though questions remain about if the state is ready.

Starting Jan. 1, many of the provisions of the health law go into effect, including insurance coverage for those who signed up for private plans on the federal enrollment website. The state’s modified Medicaid expansion — which uses federal dollars to offer coverage to some low-income Iowans — has been granted federal approval and will also begin that day.

But a key question in Iowa is whether all the people seeking coverage can get enrolled in plans, or on Medicaid, by the beginning of January. The enrollment process has been beset by glitches with the federal exchange website, which is being used by 36 states, including Iowa. Obama officials promised to improve the site by the end of November and it appears to be working better.

“It’s going better. I don’t know if I can say it’s going well,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart.

According to data released by the federal government last week, about 25,000 state residents applied for coverage on the federal website in October and November. Of them, just 757 have enrolled in private health insurance plans and another 7,832 have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or another state program.

Gerhart stressed that uninsured people who want coverage to start at the beginning of January must remember that the deadline to sign up for private plans is Dec. 23. He recommended getting advice to help with the process.

“Talk to somebody who can help you. Talk to a navigator, talk to your agent,” Gerhart said, adding that people need to think about what kind of coverage they require. “Is your doctor in the network, are the drugs you need?”

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