State officials say the 560,000 Iowans who get their health care coverage through government-paid Medicaid should be getting a new card in the mail soon.
Iowa’s Medicaid program will be managed by three private companies starting April 1. According to Iowa Medicaid director Mikki Stier, those companies started to print and mail out “welcome packets” this week, with new beneficiary cards inside.
“People should start to be seeing those within the next couple of days, early part of next week,” she said Wednesday.
Stier testified yesterday before an Iowa Senate committee and she assured legislators everything was ready for the April 1 switch. Legislators were skeptical.
Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque said only four family doctors in her city have agreed to continue seeing Medicaid patients once the managed care companies take over.
“Tell me what I should tell people on what they should do when in two weeks this goes live and this is the network so far in my region,” Jochum said.
Stier responded: “I do know that the network is growing daily and we can continue to give you an updated list.”
Jochum interjected: “But Mikki, with all due respect, you told us this was ready on January 1, then it was March 1. In two weeks, we go live.”
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said he’s heard from “plenty of people” who cannot figure out if they can continue to go to their doctor or will be forced to go to another.
“There’s so much frustration out there and fear that when we talk to people, they break down and cry,” Dotzler told Stier. “And I’m feeling it right now.”
Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said legislators still haven’t gotten some key information they requested from state officials — and she predicts Medicaid members are in for a “bumpy” ride.
“We put a lot of trust, I believe, in our department to give us the right information,” Mathis told reporters after the meeting, “and they’re not giving us the information that we need to give to the members.”
Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, told reporters he’s nervous.
“I believe that the system could just implode,” Johnson said, “that there are just going to be too many people who are at the margins who will fall first.”
Senator Chaz Allen, a Democrat from Newton, said he has health care providers in his community who are teetering financially because of this switch.
“Please beat our expectations,” Allen told Stier. “I am scared for April 1.”
The contracts state officials negotiated with the three managed care companies calls for 90 percent of all claims from doctors, hospitals and other care givers to be paid or denied within 14 days. All claims must be paid or denied within 90 days. If one of the three companies routinely fails to meet those standards, state officials can pursue a variety of penalties, including cancelling the contract with that managed care company.