Republicans unveil more details on Healthy Iowa Plan


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Details of Gov. Terry Branstad’s alternative to Medicaid expansion were introduced last week, offering a peek at what legislators say will be the focus of much of their time.

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, will be tasked to oversee the bill, which would cost $23 million from the state’s general fund in its first year. 

One House Democrat was dismayed with how long it took Republicans to propose their plan.

“What in the Sam Hill have you been doing for two years?” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville. “There’s four weeks left in session, and they’re proposing a new health-care bill which should have been something that was worked on in the interim.”

Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, also expressed frustration with timing — although he is upset with progress from the Governor’s Office.

“We’re waiting … it’s up to the governor to give us his bill,” he said.

Heaton said it’s difficult to determine what Republicans will do, because securing federal funds will require federal approval. This means Republicans could potentially vote on a bill that fails to secure federal funding.

Branstad’s Healthy Iowa Plan would cover approximately 89,000 uninsured Iowans earning below 100 percent of the federal poverty line, or around $11,500 income per year for a single individual.

The bill would require every approved member to pay some amount of money for the plan, although the amount required would change based on her or his income.

The plan would also create “my health rewards accounts,” which would be used for payment of required contributions, cost sharing, and health improvements by members.

Members would be offered cost incentives for their plans if they completed various things such as efforts to quit smoking or nutrition counseling.

The cost of the plan — originally estimated at $162 million a year — would be covered through the general fund, property taxes, and possibly federal money.

The plan would replace IowaCare, which currently serves uninsured Iowans who cannot get Medicaid. IowaCare is set to expire at the end of this year, and representatives from both parties want to replace it.

Senate Democrats approved an expansion of Medicaid on March 25 under the Affordable Care Act. The federal government has pledged to pay for the expansion with decreasing support over time.

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