Expand Medicaid to cover more Iowans

What’s at stake:

 

Nearly 400,000 Iowans relied upon Medicaid coverage last year, and that number is growing.  Medicaid is the second largest health care payer in Iowa behind Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Roughly 20% of all Medicaid dollars goes to pay solely for nursing home care in Iowa.  Enacted on the same day as Medicare in 1965, Medicaid provides much needed health insurance to the nation’s most vulnerable, and over the years has been expanded to cover the mentally and physically disabled, as well as some children and pregnant mothers.

 

What we’re pushing for:

 

Medicaid expansion

The Affordable Care Act passed by the US Congress aimed to expand access to health care coverage to the millions of Americans still without health insurance.  The primary way that was to be achieved was through an expansion of Medicaid to cover those with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

 

Here in Iowa, that would mean up to 150,000 more individuals would have access to affordable health care insurance.    And, expansion would cost the state of Iowa very little, if anything, to cover these individuals.  That’s because the federal government will pick up the tab for 100% of the costs for the first two years beginning in 2014, and by 2019 they will cover 90% of the costs for expansion into the future.

 

Even with the state picking up 10% of the costs of expansion, all indications point to the state of Iowa saving taxpayer money through expanding coverage.  For starters, the federal match for expansion covers more than it does for current Medicaid recipients.  Iowa will also save money through more people being covered by Medicaid which means less emergency room visits by those on the margins leaving taxpayers to foot the bill of unpaid medical costs.

 

Expanding Medicaid to provide much needed coverage to more Iowans isn’t only the moral thing to do, it’s good public policy that makes economic sense.  Governor Branstad and the Iowa legislature should embrace this move immediately.

 

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