Governor Terry Branstad has a meeting today with key federal officials, like the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, to review a waiver application for the state’s version of Medicaid expansion.
“We’re very close, actually,” Branstad told reporters Monday afternoon. “We’ve worked out a lot of the details.”
States were given the option of taking federal money to pay for expanding the number of uninsured, low-income Americans eligible for health care coverage through Medicaid. Iowa’s governor and legislators agreed to accept the funds, so perhaps as many as 170,000 more Iowans will get health care coverage. However, those who live just above the poverty line would be required to pay a monthly premium.
Branstad admits the premium issue is a sticking point with the federal government, but he emphasizes that those who take steps to live a healthier life — by losing weight, for example — won’t have to pay the premium.
“It’s not an onerous requirement at all, but it is part of our whole effort to get people to take ownership of their own health,” Branstad said, “and it was approved on a bipartisan basis and it’s part of the legislation that was approved by the General Assembly in our Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.”
The governor rejects the idea political skirmishes in congress over “defunding” ObamaCare will derail his talks this week with Obama Administration officials.
“I don’t spend my time worrying about the way they fight in Washington, D.C. I’m the governor of Iowa. My focus is on making this state a model and a leader in what we can accomplish,” Branstad said during a news conference in his statehouse office. “And I realize we have people in Washington, D.C. — the president wants to blame the Republicans, the Republicans want to blame the president. We’re not in the blame game. We’re interested in trying to make things work as best we can.”
AUDIO of Q&A during governor’s weekly news conference, 11:00
Branstad said December 31 is likely the deadline for getting this federal waiver for Medicaid expansion.