Iowa officials are making one last effort through bureaucratic channels before launching a lawsuit challenging Iowa’s lowest-in-the-nation reimbursement rate for seniors who get medical care through Medicare. Attorney General Tom Miller is sending an official letter of appeal to the federal agency that has set Medicare rates for the coming fiscal year. Miller says Iowa hospitals take a six-and-a-half percent loss for treating every Medicare patient. John Forsythe, the C-E-O of Wellmark/Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Iowa, says that means everyone under age 65 in Iowa pays a higher insurance rate to make up the difference. Forsythe says Blue Cross rates could be lowered as much as 10 percent if the state’s Medicare reimbursement rate is boosted. John Shors, a lawyer for Mercy hospital in Des Moines, says it’s time for Iowa to be treated fairly. Shors says it’s hard to move the state forward, economically, when Medicare has a billion dollar rock tied to Iowa’s foot. Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson says the low Medicare reimbursement rate effects everybody’s medical care, not just those who are above age 65.Pederson says if hospitals and clinics are financially-strapped because most of their patients are older, then they won’t be able to recruit and retain the best doctors and nurses, and they won’t be able to buy the best equipment. Congressmen Steve King and Leonard Boswell have signed the letter the Attorney General has submitted asking for a change in the reimbursement rate. Boswell says many hospitals are discontinuing services because they can no longer take the losses.Miller says if the federal agency says no,there’s still a shot at getting major changes that Iowa seeks approved by Congress. If not, the state will proceed with a lawsuit against the federal government, challenging Iowa’s Medicare reimbursement rate.
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