Key legislators say there could be a breakthrough in negotiations over exactly how the state may ensure more low-income working Iowans get health care coverage.
Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who is involved in the negotiations, puts it like this: “I think reassurance from the governor’s office that he is respecting our work at trying to find a compromise between his plan and the Senate plan would be very helpful in helping us move forward.”
Democrats have been pushing to use available federal dollars to expand the government’s Medicaid program to provide coverage to up to 150,000 uninsured Iowans.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s proposed alternative creates a whole new “Healthy Iowa Plan” the is heavily subsidized by the state and federal government and requires a monthly premium payment of $12 from the roughly 90,000 uninsured Iowans it’s designed to cover.
“We believe that there are things going on now that are opening the door for us to determine whether or not the executive branch is serious,” says Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines who is also involved in the private negotiations.
Hatch and Heaton are part of a 10-member committee that was appointed a couple of weeks ago to try to hammer out a compromise. Heaton says once everyone is on “the same wavelength” negotiations may take off.
“If you’re going to sit down and you’re really going to find a real compromise, it takes a lot of trust…that we really are sincere in what we are saying and doing in trying to find a final conclusion to what the differences are,” Heaton says, “and can trust each other that somebody isn’t going to go out and try to do something else.”
Legislators have a host of issues to resolve before their 2013 session can end — and the end won’t come this week. Lawmakers will come back to the capitol next week to continue debate on this topic and a host of others.