Pam Jochum

Pam Jochum

Democrats in the Iowa Senate plan to pass a bill that would stop Governor Branstad’s plan to move the 560,000 Medicaid patients in Iowa into private managed care plans.

“We have introduced that bill because our constituents have told us over and over again that the governor’s plan is failing,” says Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque. “He has tried to do too much, too fast and as a result he has failed to protect vulnerable Iowans.”

The Branstad Administration originally planned to start the switch on January 1, but federal officials who oversee the Medicaid program ordered a 60-day delay. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says many Iowa Medicaid patients can’t figure out if their doctor has signed up with one of the three managed care companies or if they’ll be forced to switch to a new doctor.

“This thing’s a mess right now. The roll-out has been horrible: wrong phone numbers, people that can’t get their questions answered,” Gronstal says. “…It’s a disaster.”

Republicans are defending the new system and making clear the effort by Democrats to stop the switch will go nowhere in the Iowa House where Republicans have a majority of votes. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, suggests Democrats are stoking the chaos.

“I’m hearing many people with question,” Upmeyer says. “And the reason we’re having so many questions is because we’re spending our time protecting the status quo instead of moving forward.”

Change is a challenge, but one that should be embraced, according to Upmeyer. Upmeyer says the governor’s staff has assured her the state is complying with the federal government’s checklist and the program will be ready for the switch on March 1.