Iowa’s Republican governor is seeking a face-to-face meeting with President Obama to make a personal appeal for the state’s alternative plan to expand Medicaid coverage for up to 150,000 Iowans.
“Just to stress how important it is and how the White House needs to make it clear to HHS that this waiver approval needs to occur,” Branstad says.
An existing program that provides government-paid health care coverage to about 70-thousand needy Iowa adults ends December 31 and the state is waiting for federal officials to grant a waiver that would allow the state to enroll those Iowans along with several thousand more low-income adults in the “Iowa Health and Wellness” plan. Unlike traditional Medicaid, participants face small monthly premiums if they do not make healthy lifestyle choices, like losing weight or quitting smoking.
“We’re very hopeful that we’ll get an approval of the waiver in the very near future,” Branstad says.
The waiver request was submitted this summer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that’s dealing with www.healthcare.gov.
“We got all of our material to them on a timely basis,” Branstad says. “We were expecting and hoping that we would get this approval before the first of October, but you know the mess and the problems and the way that things have happened in that department since the first of October. We can’t help that.”
Branstad met in September with one of President Obama’s top health care advisor.
“Every time I go to Washington, D.C. I try to make it clear this is a priority of ours,” Branstad says. “We’ve worked hard. We reached a bipartisan compromise to get the Iowa Health and Wellness plan. We’ve moved forward in good faith. We’re signing people up. We’ve had no problems with our website.”
More than 50,000 Iowans have signed up for government-paid health care coverage through the Iowa Health and Wellness plan starting January 1, but without the federal waiver that coverage cannot be offered.