State officials are awaiting word from a federal agency that must give the go-ahead to Governor Branstad’s plan to switch the 560,000 Medicaid patients in Iowa to private managed care plans.

Federal officials ordered Branstad to hold off for 60 days, but that delay period is set to run out March 1. State Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, chairs a legislative panel that drafts the state Medicaid budget. He’s hoping word about a federal waiver comes this week.

“So that people can get used to and in condition to be ready to begin,” Heaton says.

Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, says she spoke with federal decision makers two weeks ago and they were concerned not enough doctors, clinics and other health care providers had signed contracts with the three companies hired to run the program.

“They want to make sure that we have enough providers throughout the entire state to be able to meet the health needs of some of Iowa’s most vulnerable people,” Jochum says.

Jochum and Heaton made their comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.