House Republicans propose a three percent increase in the rates paid to those who care for Medicaid patients. Medicaid is the government program which provide health care coverage to the poor and disabled. State officials won’t spend as much as they’d expected on the program, partly because of some cost-containment plans and partly because fewer people are signing up.
Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says Iowa’s booming economy is the reason fewer people need Medicaid. “This state is one of the fastest growing economies in the United States right now, though I’m from southeast Iowa and I’ll debate that fact,” Heaton says. “But when you walk into a city like this — Des Moines — and Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and in our river communities of Davenport and Dubuque, this state’s on fire, economically.”
Heaton says Medicaid providers — doctors, hospitals, nursing homes — took a three percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates in 2000 and just last year the state legislature restored that three percent cut. This proposed three percent increase would be the first time in six years that state payments to Medicaid providers have gone up. “When the (state) budgets were tight, we asked of these providers to go without increases so the state could maintain services for those in need as well as providing increasing funds to our schools,” Heaton says.
Heaton estimates it’ll cost about 17 million dollars to provide that three percent increase in state reimbursement for Medicaid services. Heaton says the increase is the right thing to do in support of Iowa’s Medicaid providers. Heaton, though, worries there aren’t enough doctors and dentists settling in rural Iowa, which means all patients, not just those on Medicaid, have to travel great distances to get treatment.