Three Democrats from the Iowa Senate are meeting with Republican Governor Terry Branstad this afternoon to talk about expanding government programs to provide health care coverage to more Iowans. Branstad prefers expanding a program called “Iowa Care” with a requirement that participants to pay a small premium. That would require a waiver from the federal government.
“We do intend to, in the near future, submit our proposal for renewing and improving and changing the Iowa Care program,” Branstad says.
Democrats want to let up to 150,000 more poor Iowans qualify for Medicaid. Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines is one of the Democrats who’ll be meeting with Branstad this afternoon.
“We’re going to propose that since he is beginning to exercise some thought on expanding his proposal that we should put together a work group — of senators, of representatives, of both parties and his representatives,” Hatch says, “and kind of have a ‘Gang of Eight’ or a “Gang of Nine’ where we can get together and meet and work through some of his concepts and ours so that we can reach a mutually-acceptable position.”
Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City is another Democrat who’ll be at this afternoon’s meeting.
“I think if we all go into this with a positive attitude about listening, I think we maybe can come to some kind of conclusion that there’s a way of getting this resolved,” Ragan says.
Branstad says he hopes to develop Iowa Care into something like an “accountable care organization” that will require premium payments and focus on improving health.
“One of the big concerns that I have is just expanding Medicaid has not worked to improve health. In fact, the health of the American people has gone consistently downhill,” Branstad says. “We’ve become more obese and less healthy.”
The governor’s meeting with Democratic senators is private and not open to the public. It’s scheduled to start at 3:30 this afternoon. Iowa hospital executives are at the statehouse today, too, lobbying for expanding Medicaid, arguing it will improve the health of up to 150,000 Iowans.