A statement from Governor Terry Branstad indicates he’s reached a tentative agreement with federal officials over the state’s alternative plan for Medicaid expansion, meaning tens of thousands of low income Iowans will be able to sign up for health care coverage that goes into effect January 1.
This past Tuesday federal officials announced they were granting Iowa a waiver for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan. It calls for monthly premium payments from those who fail to make healthy choices, like continuing to smoke or skipping annual check-ups. However, federal officials said they could not allow premiums to be charged to Iowans at or below the poverty line.
Late this afternoon, Branstad announced the two sides now agree low-income Iowans who qualify for the new health care coverage can make “premium contributions,” but there will be no “loss of coverage” for those who fail to pay the premium. It appears the deal is not done, however, as a statement from the governor indicates “specific final terms of the agreement are being worked out between the state and (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).”
More than 55,000 Iowans have already signed up for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan through a state-run website. Branstad has repeatedly touted it as a unique, Iowa alternative to Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act promises states the money to cover uninsured Americans by increasing enrollment in Medicaid.