For years, Iowa has been at the bottom of the Medicaid reimbursement ladder. Now, the state has the opportunity to gain some extra funding from the federal government.

But there’s one obstacle and it’s a big one: Gov. Terry Branstad.

We think he’s wrong and should reconsider his position sooner than later.

Here’s the deal.

President Obama’s health care overhaul would provide funding to states that expand Medicaid. If the state buys in to the program, the eligibility limit would be raised to 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $15,400 annually for an individual.

In Iowa, that could amount to an additional 150,000 people added to the Medicaid rolls. The program currently provides benefits for about 400,000 Iowans.

One expert, Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., said children and families would benefit along with individuals, and that the state’s spending will not increase as the federal government covers the plan’s costs in the initial years.

“Expanding Medicaid has a very serious benefit for children,” Solomon told an Iowa legislative panel. “When parents are covered, children are more likely to get covered, they’re more likely to get care.”

Medicaid expansion also had the support of some 50 groups that gathered at the Capitol recently to make what our Des Moines Bureau called “fiscal, health and moral arguments” for the proposal.

Kirk Norris, head of the Iowa Hospital Association, said expanding eligibility would be a “win-win if not a win-win-win” for state government, low-income Iowans and the Iowa business community. The hospital industry is understandably anxious to see the guidelines expanded as it is a major employer — providing a $6 billion impact on the state’s economy.

Norris said if the state doesn’t seize the opportunity to expand the program and “take back what Iowa has contributed, which is $2.3 billion over 10 years,” the gap in reimbursement widens even further.

Branstad, however, is having nothing of it because he believes raising Medicaid eligibility limits would be too costly and points out the state already is picking up an additional $57 million in Medicaid costs this year because of decisions at the federal level.

As for covering costs of the program if it were expanded, Branstad doubts the federal government can do what it’s promising because of its debt situation.

“The expansion of Medicaid without any attention to outcomes fails the very people Medicaid intends to serve: vulnerable Iowans,” he said.

He instead favors continuing the IowaCare program, a state- and federally funded plan that provides limited health coverage to low-income adults.

He also continues to stress that Iowans must take it upon themselves to become more healthy. Thus, his Healthiest State initiative and programs such as Blue Zones which encourage Iowans to improve their health through smart eating and living decisions.

We couldn’t agree more that Iowans should seize on opportunities afforded them to improve their health.

But expanding Medicaid to more Iowans and having the government cover the costs is too good of a deal to pass up. There’s no reason the state can’t have it both ways.

There is one more thing to consider (well, there are many, but this one sticks out): The IowaCare program Branstad favors expires at the end of the year and renewed funding could be denied by the federal government. Perhaps the governor is waiting to see what happens with that program.

However, we believe the prize that’s there for the grabbing is too valuable to wait.

We hope that this doesn’t become a strict party-line issue that ends up costing Iowa a golden opportunity.

Gov. Branstad should reconsider expanding Medicaid eligibility to boost the pitifully low reimbursement rate, help Iowa’s economy and, most important, give new assistance to 150,000 Iowans who would be newly eligible.

(15) comments

Mugsy

Seems to me ,the answer to question why Governor Branstad should not expand the medicare program is in the fourth paragraph from the end of the article." The IowaCare program Branstad favors expires at the end of the year and renewed funding could be denied by the federal government." Who's to say the feds won't cut funding for this program expansion? Why should Iowans put their pocketbooks in danger for another federal mandated program that will short change us like the first medicare program.

jhood

Medicaid, not medicare!

Jack jones

Another Federal give away program. It's about time some of these Medicaid people got off the cough and found a job. I saw 15 different companies advertising for help wanted this past week. There are plenty of jobs if you are willing to work. Maybe there should be a 26 week limit to receiving Medicaid.

rivercityfan

Medicaid is not a program that helps only people on welfare. I'd explain who the others are but you obviously don't give a rats who they are. Here's one clue..they're HANDICAPP, disabled and elderly.

Jake7777

THe handicapped, disabled and elderly are already covered by Medicaid. This is just another Democrat vote-buying scam using taxpayer dollars.

rivercityfan

No they are NOT fully covered. That's how little you know. Handicapp's coverage is according to parents income. Disabled are subject to a spendown of at least $700/mo. initial coverage. Elderly only get Medicare which doesn't cover 100%. Get your facts straight before you try to claim you know more than others. And the article is about getting help with coverage for "working taxpayers" making less than approx. $15,000/yr. But you can't comprehend.

Jake7777

DO THE PEOPLE OF NORTH IOWA EVER GET FED UP WITH BEING LIED TO AND MANIPULATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? Do the people of North Iowa ever get fed up with the G.G. manipulating them? Why does the G.G. k-rap on the people whom you want to pay for your newspaper and keep you employed?

Your despicable editorial is nothing but a blatant con-job on the G.G. readers. You falsely make it sound like Iowa is getting "something for nothing" from the Feds.

Jake7777

There is nothing "free" in the Medicaid expansion. Why does the G.G. lie and attempt to mislead the people of Iowa by suggesting the Medicaid expansion won't cost money right from the beginning.

Judith Solomon, a paid shill of a Washington lobbying and special interest group, said, "the state’s spending will not increase as the federal government covers the plan’s costs in the initial years."

The federal government covers the plan's costs? Who pays for the federal government?

rivercityfan

Maybe it's your lack of comprehension that's the problem. You don't even know who Medicaid covers. But keep ranting as usual.

Jake7777

Yeah, you're right. I always thought Medicaid only covered gerbils until my friend, Bob, told me hamsters are covered also.

rivercityfan

Branstad is too close minded to even realize taxpayers will pay for the care one way or another. Via Medicaid funds or U of I Hospitals. So he should sign up so it's Fed tax going into the funding as apposed to state tax money footing the medical bills. deeeer.

Jake7777

@janedoe: You are free to pay as much of other people's medical bills that you want. Put your own money where you mouth is and quit trying to stick your money-grubbing paws in other people's pockets.

rivercityfan

I've been a taxpayer longer yrs. than you're old.

Jake7777

As Solomon's comment clearly states, "the state’s spending will not increase as the federal government covers the plan’s costs in the initial years."

WHO PAYS THE COSTS AFTER THE INITIAL YEARS?" This is nothing but a classic "bait and switch" con-job that is criminal in many industries.....INCLUDING THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.

The Feds pay the costs (with whose money?)the first years to get hundreds of thousands of people hooked....then IOWA TAXPAYERS PICK UP THE FULL TAB AFTER THAT!

Jake7777

@janedoe60: You have no idea how old I am. A spend down? Why not? Why should taxpayers pick up the tab when the parents have money to spend for the care of their own child? Why should a young, working couple with children have to start picking up the medical bills for someone who has funds? More Democrat vote-buying using taxpayers dollars to buy their votes.

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