The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Iowa

December 16, 2013

Iowa readies for Medicaid expansion

(Continued)

The health care law seeks to reduce the number of people without health insurance — estimated at roughly 300,000 in Iowa — both through an expansion of Medicaid and by requiring individuals who don’t have employer-provided health insurance to purchase it. There will be federal subsidies available to help some people with their premium costs, and those who don’t buy insurance will pay a penalty.

Cliff Gold, chief operating officer at CoOportunity Health, which is offering insurance plans for Iowa on the exchange, said they’ve seen enrollments skyrocket in early December, suggesting the process is speeding up.

“We’re definitely seeing those enrollments going up,” said Gold, noting that they had 344 enrollments in October and November and that the overall enrollment number climbed to 685 in the first week of December.

Those in the field said interest is growing as the end of the month draws near.

Betty Spratt, supervisor of financial counseling at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, said 12 staffers who help people with insurance applications have been inundated recently.

“We’ve been standing room only the last few weeks or so,” said Spratt, who noted that the website is working better, though there are still problems sometimes. “I’ve been hearing more positive things from the counselors getting online.”

People can continue to sign up on the exchange through March 31 and Medicaid enrollment is possible year-round.

Another major development for Iowa came last week, when Gov. Terry Branstad and federal authorities reached an agreement to allow the state to use additional Medicaid dollars to create a new program for low-income residents. Under the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, some people will go on a new state-run health plan with benefits similar to those offered to state workers. Others will get private health plans on the exchange and the premiums will be paid for with federal dollars.

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