A key Republican legislator says Iowa doctors who sign contracts with one of the three companies hired to manage care for Medicaid patients will be paid more than they would get in other states.

Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, is chairman of a budget panel that deals with this issue. Heaton says based on action in congress, many other states are reducing payments to doctors who provide care to low income and disabled patients who are on Medicaid.

“Iowa has elected as their base rate for primary care physicians to hold onto that enhanced rate and that is the base from which these docs are negotiating with these managed care companies…paying a premium above what other states are offering their doctors,” Heaton says. “Now, I want to go on and say this, that if these doctors don’t agree really with what is being offered them as a base, I think that they are putting my Medicaid population at risk.”

Nearly a year ago Governor Branstad unveiled plans to shift Medicaid patients into private managed care plans. About 560,000 Iowans get their health care coverage through the government’s Medicaid program.

“The greatest number of them will be affected from the outset on March 1, but the long-term care –people in the nursing home area of Medicaid, they’re still a year and a half away,” Heaton says.

State officials are still waiting for a federal agency to approve a waiver for Medicaid privatization to begin in Iowa on March 1. Heaton says he hopes that decision is announced next week to give everyone involved two weeks to get ready. Heaton made his comments today during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.