DES MOINES — Low-income Iowans served by the IowaCare program will have more options for seeking health care services at closer locations under legislation Gov. Chet Culver signed into law Wednesday.
IowaCare is the state’s health-care program for adults who are not eligible for Medicaid but whose income does not allow them to buy insurance. Created in 2005, IowaCare is now providing health care services to over 36,000 Iowans at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
Senate File 2356 directs the state Department of Human Services to phase in expanded access to IowaCare medical services at 14 regional federally certified health centers.
The legislation establishes a mechanism to leverage up to $20 million in additional federal monies through certified public expenditures to compensate UI facility for a portion of the costs associated with physician care. The new law also creates a payment mechanism for the regional provider network to receive payment for primary care services to IowaCare members.
“It’s a positive step in the right direction,” said DHS Director Charles Krogmeier, who expected the initial phase in would involve regional facilities in Sioux City and Council Bluffs that could provide services to Iowans who live the farthest away from Iowa City.
A separate provision of S.F. 2356 creates an insurance exchange in Iowa designed to establish an information clearinghouse where all Iowans can obtain information about available health-care coverage. The exchange is to provide information about the availability of care delivered by safety-net providers and comparisons of benefits, premiums, and out-of-pocket costs that will assist consumers in making decisions about purchasing or acquiring health care coverage.
Peggy Huppert, Iowa director of governmental relations for the American Cancer Society’s Midwest division, applauded Wednesday’s action.
“Starting July 1, low-income, uninsured cancer patients from across the state will no longer need to travel long distances to Iowa City for treatment, which has long been an unnecessary barrier to the lifesaving care they need,” she said. “S.F. 2356 will enable patients to be treated at local hospitals or federally qualified clinics.
On the same day Culver signed the IowaCare expansion bill, two Republican legislators called for an April 29 meeting of the House-Senate budget subcommittee that oversees Medicaid and the IowaCare program to discuss a recent report from the State Auditor’s Office they said raised troubling issues and criticism regarding the administration of the IowaCare program.
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, and Rep. David Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, said State Auditor David Vaudt’s report indicated DHS officials failed to verify information people put on their applications, raising concern that ineligible people were being allowed to sign up for the program and get services.
“The auditor’s report validated the reports we had been hearing from Iowa City that people not eligible were getting on to IowaCare, including people from Illinois,” said Johnson. “For the people of northwest Iowa, that is especially troubling since IowaCare is not an option for many in this part of the state. To see their tax dollars used for people not eligible for IowaCare raises serious questions about the management of the program.”
In other action Wednesday, Culver approved a three-year pilot project with the Iowa Hospital Association using existing patient revenue to draw down more federal matching Medicaid money.
Senate File 2388 creates a program that assesses 34 urban hospitals a fee that would generate $40 million that can be used as a match for the state’s Medicaid program — funds that are to be deposited in the Hospital Health Care Access Trust Fund.
Under the plan, hospitals would receive a $20.5 million appropriation from the trust fund for a provider rate increase. The $20.5 million is then matched to draw down $48.6 million to reach the federal upper payment limit of $69.1 million, while the state nets $19.4 million for Medicaid expenses.
The legislation also includes funding for hospital re-basing at $4.5 million in fiscal 2012 and $6 million in fiscal 2013.