Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad’s administration has essentially extended the deadline for Iowa health care providers who’ve not yet signed contracts with any of the private companies hired to manage care for 560,000 Iowans who are on Medicaid.

Branstad has aimed to have managed care for the Medicaid program start January 1, but hospitals, doctors and other health care providers have complained the process has been rushed and they’ve lacked enough details to make business decisions.

“The ‘Safe Harbor’ for providers is extended until April 1,” Branstad announced today.

It means all Medicaid providers in Iowa will be able to receive full reimbursement at existing rates for any care they provide in the first four months of the year, even if they’re not yet signed up with one of the chosen private companies that will be managing patient cases.

“We’ve had a number of providers that have signed up here in recent weeks, but we’re going to be extending that ’til April 1st…so that gives them a little bit more time for the ones that haven’t signed up to date,” Branstad says.

A written statement from the governor’s office described the move as a way to provide “peace of mind” to Medicaid patients who’re worried they’ll have to change doctors on January 1st. A legislative committee is meeting today to review the governor’s transition plan.

Federal officials are also due in the state this week to analyze the proposed switch. The federal government must provide a waiver to the State of Iowa for the switch to managed care for Medicaid patients.