Democrats and six Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to establish more oversight of the three private companies that will begin managing care for Iowa Medicaid patients April 1st. The bill would create a new legislative committee that would meet quarterly to review the program, plus there would be some limits on how much the private companies can profit from the new arrangements.
Senator Amanda Ragan, a Democrat from Mason City, said legislators have to be “the voice” of the 560,000 Iowans who are currently on Medicaid.
“Each one of us in this room are one accident or one illness away from being on Medicaid and using those services,” Ragan said.
Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan is urging his fellow Republicans to join the effort to establish more oversight in the both the legislative and executive branches of state government.
“A bipartisan approach to doing the right thing, to do our legislative duty,” Johnson said.
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said private companies have been racking up “significant” profits in other states that have switched Medicaid patients into managed care plans.
“Is this a great country or what? Making money off vulnerable, frail, sick Iowans; people with disabilities; our seniors and our kids,” Bolkcom said. “The managed care companies will make money by cutting provider rates and denying services to our most vulnerable citizens. We need this oversight bill more than ever.”
Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale, another Republican who voted for the bill, said the process of awarding contracts to the three companies that will manage Iowa’s Medicaid program was “polluted” and “shameful”.
“I’m just disgusted. I’m disgusted we’re having this conversation,” Zaun said. “What we’re trying to do is make the best of a bad situation.”
The bill now goes to the Republican-led Iowa House, where its future is unclear. Republican Governor Terry Branstad last week said there’s no need for additional oversight. He said that’s what the private companies have been hired to do.