Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack says he’s “troubled” by Republican opponent Doug Gross’s call for limiting the number of Iowans who qualify for government-paid Medicaid health insurance. Gross has criticized the special waivers the Vilsack Administration has obtained to provide additional services to Iowans who live above the poverty level. Vilsack says doing away with one of the waivers would affect 19-hundred elderly Iowans who’re living in their homes rather than a nursing home as a result of one of those waivers. Vilsack says that makes no sense, since the waiver’s actually saving money, and providing those elderly Iowans with a greater sense of dignity. Another Medicaid waiver provides Medicaid insurance coverage to poor Iowa women who have breast and cervical cancer. Vilsack says for those patients who’d be eliminated, it’s 250 percent of the poverty level, and he says that’s not enough to pay for the treatment. Vilsack asked, “What are you do with those people? Are you just going to tell ’em to die?”Gross campaign spokesman Eric Woolson was asked if Gross would get rid of that particular waiver for women with breast and cervical cancer, and Woolson wouldn’t say.Woolson says Gross wants all the waivers reviewed on a case-by-case basis to make sure they’re appropriate from a health care standpoint and could be supported financially by the state. Woolson yesterday said Gross wanted to limit overall participation in Medicaid to Iowans at or below the poverty line. Today, Woolson says he was struggling and misspoke.Woolson says he doesn’t have any numbers or any idea of how many Iowans would be affected if Gross’s limitations were put in place. Vilsack says while Medicaid is now extended to poor Iowans who live above the poverty level, limiting the program to those at 100 percent of poverty or below would be ridiculous.Vilsack says that means a single person, perhaps a 93-year-old woman still living in her home, would not qualify for Medicaid assistance if her income was above eight-thousand-eight-hundred-68 dollars a year. The poverty level for a married couple if just under 12-thousand; and for a family of four, the poverty level is set at slightly above 18-thousand dollars a year.
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