Iowa Gov. Branstad Accepts Medicaid Expansion

Image: Iowa Gov. Branstad Accepts Medicaid Expansion

Thursday, 23 May 2013 12:27 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has reversed his stand against expanding Medicaid under Obamacare to become the nation's ninth Republican governor to embrace it under a deal he worked out with Democratic lawmakers.

According to The Des Moines Register, the Iowa Senate approved a compromise plan Wednesday by a 26-24 vote that will cover about 150,000 residents through a state-operated program financed with federal dollars through Obamacare.

The compromise was reached between Branstad and Democrats earlier this week. The House is expected to approve the measure on Thursday, and Branstad has agreed to sign it into law.

Iowa's new Health and Wellness Plan, as it's called, covers the same people who would have been covered under a all-federal Medicaid-expansion plan under Obamacare. The new plan keeps elements of the current IowaCare program for low-income residents, which gives the state more control over the kind of coverage offered and allows it to opt out if federal funding is not provided as promised, something Branstad insisted on.

"The governor was clear from the onset that two things needed to happen with regard to healthcare reform," Branstad spokeman Tim Albrecht told the Register. "First, taxpayers needed to be protected in the event the federal government did not come through on its funding promises. Second, the governor wanted to ensure we were focused on health outcomes and making Iowans healthier."

The governor and Iowa Democrats have fought for months over the implementation of Obamacare, especially as it relates to expanding coverage for low-income earners.

Democrats wanted a straight Medicaid expansion, but Branstad worried about whether the federal government would be able to sustain the costs. If not, he said, it might leave the state holding the bill to cover increased enrollments.

He also raised concerns about the ability of the program to offer quality healthcare by nearly tripling the number of people covered.

Iowa currently covers some 67,000 low-income people through IowaCare, which expires Dec. 31.



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