Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad held a town hall meeting in Mason City Wednesday and some in the crowd of 75 raised concerns about Branstad’s decision to hire privatize companies to manage the care of Medicaid patients. Branstad says it will save money.

“I understand many people are fearful of change,” Branstad says. “Many providers are still uncertain because the contracts were just signed last Friday, but change is inevitable. We need to make sure the change is better and improves the outcomes for Iowans.”

Branstad says he’ll hold more town hall meetings like yesterday’s in Mason City to field questions and officials in his Department of Human Service are also traveling the state, trying to reassure not only Medicaid patients, but the doctors, hospitals and other medical facilities that care for Medicaid patients.

“We have four experienced providers that are going to be delivering the services and coordinating the services,” Branstad says.

Medicaid is the government program that provides health care coverage to poor and disabled Americans. It’s a joint state and federal program and Branstad says Medicaid costs for the State of Iowa are rising so dramatically, it’s time to try to a “managed care” model to try to reign in expenses.

“Twenty-five other states have gone to a managed care system,” Branstad says, “and we’re trying to find the best way to do that in a way that’s going to prevent a duplication of services, prevent people from having four or five different providers prescribing different drugs that interact with each other where people end up in the hospital and things like that.”

Last week the Iowa Department of Human Services signed contacts with four private companies to take over management of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program on January 1st. Some of the companies that submitted unsuccessful bids have filed a lawsuit, challenging the selection process.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KGLO, Mason City)