Democrats in the Iowa Senate are pressing ahead with a plan to expand the number of Iowans who qualify for government-paid Medicaid health care coverage, despite Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s objections.
“We have a difference of opinion on this,” Branstad says. “There are some that think we can rely on the federal government, that they will do everything for us and that we don’t have to worry about the fact that they’re spending a trillion dollars more than they’re taking in or that we’re going into sequestration the first of March and there’s going to be massive reductions because of that.”
But seven other Republican governors who had expressed the same sentiments as Branstad now have reversed course and agreed to expand Medicaid. Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it’s a hopeful sign.
“All of these conservative governors have decided it’s time to put the politics aside and to look at how the state can benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and the dollars that are available,” Hatch says.
Branstad is in Washington, D.C. today for a meeting with governors from other states and he expects the topic to come up.
“Each state is different. There are 30 Republican governors,” Branstad says. “…This is a huge issue and it’s a huge budget problem for the federal government and for each of the individual states.”
This past summer Senator Hatch said it was “borderline irresponsible” of Branstad to refuse the federal money to expand Medicaid to up to 150-thousand Iowans. Hatch has taken a more conciliatory tone recently, saying Branstad’s goal of making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation should be part of the conversation.
“Let’s work together,” Hatch says. “We’re looking forward to the first time we’ll be able to meet with the governor to be able to exchange ideas and see how, together, we can meet that goal and serve our constituents.”
Today, Branstad is scheduled to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Washington, D.C.
“There’s a lot of questions we’ve asked that have not been answered,” Branstad says. “We’re trying to get more information and more answers.”
Iowa is now one of 18 states that has not agreed to expanding Medicaid to cover more uninsured people. On Thursday a subcommittee in the Iowa Senate gave its initial approval to the Democrats’ plan for expanding Medicaid in Iowa.