Officials with the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center are expressing concerns about the new state initiative designed to get health care coverage for more poor Iowans. The State of Iowa stood to lose millions in federal Medicaid dollars, but state officials brokered a deal that calls for covering a broader percentage of the state’s working poor.
But Victor Elias of the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center says the premiums that poor folks are required to pay to get the government insurance are too high. A single mom with two kids earning about 19-thousand dollars a year would pay a 43 dollar-a-month premium. Elias says that might not seem like very much, but to a single mother struggling to pay for child care, food, clothes, rent or a mortgage and heat for her home would find that 43 dollars an “added burden. “This is pretty much the similar demographic that’s currently going to pay-day loan companies and car title loan companies to try and extend their paychecks,” Elias says. “Now there’s an additional cost to get health care.”
Elias says the working poor who didn’t get health care insurance from their employer were previously getting health care, for free, at public hospitals in Des Moines and Iowa City. Now, they’re paying a monthly premium and “get less service” according to Elias because prescription drugs aren’t covered by the new system. Elias and his colleagues at the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center compiled some anecdotes, and among them is the story of a woman who makes about 16-thousand dollars a year who is now paying three-hundred dollars a month for her prescription meds under the new program when before the state covered that cost.
Elias says federal policymakers are looking at Iowa’s new program and may try to replicate it nationwide, and that’s why his group is starting to raise questions about whether it’s working as intended.