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Iowa Senate backs Medicaid expansion legislation

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm •  Published: March 25, 2013
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About 400,000 people in Iowa are currently enrolled in Medicaid, with another 70,000 on a limited benefit program for low-income adults called IowaCare, paid for through state and federal funds.

If Branstad agreed to expand Medicaid to those at or below 138 percent of the poverty level, an estimated 110,000 to 180,000 people could be added to the Medicaid rolls, including those currently on IowaCare.

Branstad's Healthy Iowa proposal is a revamped version of the soon-to-expire IowaCare program. The plan, which would need federal approval, would offer health coverage to those with incomes below the federal poverty level who don't qualify for Medicaid, mostly childless adults.

Details on Branstad's plan have been limited, though officials have said it would include prescription drug coverage and offer services in locations around the state. When he unveiled the plan, Branstad said the benefits would not be as "rich" as under Medicaid.

State officials estimated that as many as 89,000 could be eligible for the new program. Unlike Medicaid, participants would be responsible for small contributions to their coverage, though Branstad said some or all of that cost could be waived if they participate in wellness programs.

The state cost for Healthy Iowa is estimated at $162 million per year, with the funding coming from the state general fund, local property taxes and other sources. Under the plan, the federal government will provide another roughly $220 million. Branstad previously said the combined state and federal cost was lower, but aides Monday affirmed the $162 million state price tag.

The Medicaid expansion legislation will now go to the Republican-majority House, where lawmakers thus far have shown little interest in the plan.