Governor Kim Reynolds stubbornly refuses to act as her Medicaid privatization is spiraling into a total meltdown. She seems paralyzed, unwilling or unable to take action to solve this looming healthcare emergency. Even the Republicans in the Legislature are now admitting that privatization is in crisis. The legislative oversight committee met recently and Republicans joined Democrats in raising questions about the mismanagement of privatization. The Des Moines Register in an editorial yesterday was extremely blunt in warning both Republican legislators and Governor Reynolds that they will likely be held accountable in 2018 for their health care disaster.
“Since Reynolds is not going to face reality on this issue, lawmakers have an obligation to do so,” the Register wrote. “This mess isn’t going to just fix itself. The misguided privatization experiment has only gotten worse since Gov. Kim Reynolds was sworn in. Under her watch, private insurers have demanded and received more public dollars. One abandoned a contract with the state, leaving Iowans with no options for a private insurer and contradicting both federal requirements and Reynolds’ rhetoric about people having ‘more choice.’ Patients and providers continue to lodge complaints about coverage and payment problems.”
State Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) and State Representative John Forbes (D-Urbandale) aren’t waiting for Reynolds and legislative Republicans to get their act together. McCoy and Forbes officially filed their Medicaid public option bill on December 19. Their Healthy Iowans for a Public Option (HIPO) is a two-part proposal.
It would end the failed Branstad/Reynolds privatization experiment and restore Iowa Medicaid to the proven state management that existed prior to their change.
In addition, it would provide the 72,000 Iowans on the individual market an additional public health insurance option. This feature is especially important for Iowans whose income exceeds the qualification to receive subsidies. For these Iowans, the premium increases have left them with totally unaffordable options. The McCoy press release describes the framework of their proposal.
“Their HIPO plan would end Iowa’s Medicaid privatization and simultaneously create a new public health insurance option for Iowans to purchase on the individual marketplace. Iowans who currently receive financial assistance on the marketplace would still be eligible to receive it.”
The McCoy and Forbes’ proposal is more relevant everyday as Reynolds Medicaid privatization is continuing its devastating meltdown. Senator McCoy is calling for immediate action to remedy Reynolds’ leadership failure.
“Thousands of Iowans are facing a health care crisis right now because of Medicaid privatization and uncertainty in the health insurance market,” he said. “It’s time for the Legislature to work together and make sure that all Iowans have access to affordable health care. Our plan will give the 72,000 Iowans in the individual market another option while repealing the GOP’s disastrous Medicaid privatization.”
Representative Forbes echoed McCoy in the need to swiftly and decisively end this Republican-created catastrophe. He is calling on Republicans to join in bipartisan solutions that will benefit all Iowans.
“Iowans deserve solutions to the health care crisis they face, not excuses and blame from politicians who won’t take action,” Forbes added. “We know the high cost of health care is draining family incomes and threatening the retirement security of too many Iowans. Since politicians in DC keep making our health care system worse, it’s time for Gov. Reynolds and Republican lawmakers to work with us and make health care both accessible and affordable.”
The McCoy and Forbes proposal could be implemented very quickly once the Legislature resumes their session in January. The big question remains whether they can obtain bipartisan support from Republicans to get it passed. It will also require a waiver from the Federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare.
The seriousness of this life-and-death healthcare crisis demands immediate action. Iowans expect their representatives to work together to be problem solvers.
This is a big lift, but if Democrats can successfully push this through the Iowa Legislature, it will demonstrate the viability of a national public option.
by Rick Smith