Statehouse Dems Unveil Plan for Public Medicaid-Based Insurance, 2019 Target Start Date

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The insurance landscape in Iowa is less than ideal. Medica is the only game in town for Iowans trying to purchase individual healthcare, and the cost has soared. Recently, the Iowa stopgap plan was also pulled. Now, Democrats in the Statehouse have released their plan for Iowans caught in the middle, but won’t be able to help this year.

“What we have is failing Iowans. The privatization of Medicaid is a complete and utter failure, and it has to be changed,” said State Senator Matt McCoy.

Senator McCoy and Representative John Forbes are spearheading a plan to create a public safety net for the 72,000 Iowans in the crumbling individual marketplace.

“We’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and admit that we have a problem, and if we can put forward this solution, we can begin the discussions,” said McCoy.

The plan, called Healthy Iowans for a Public Option (HIPO), works like this:

Legislation would end Medicaid privatization and bring it back under state control.

Then, using federal funding under the Affordable Care Act, along with tax credits, would allow individuals between 138% and 400% of the poverty line to buy into a Medicaid-run public healthcare plan.

“We have to sell it to our colleagues in our caucuses and we have to sell it to our colleagues in the Republican caucus. I’ve had discussions with at least one Republican in my chamber that is really interested in taking a close look at this” said Forbes.

That may be easier said than done. The Branstad administration championed Medicaid privatization, and until the bill goes through committee it's unclear the support it will have on both sides of the aisle.

Even in a best-case scenario where the bill gets passed and signed, it still must be approved through a waiver by the federal government; even if that happens, the earliest this would likely be online is 2019.  No comfort to people like Bill Zook, who came to the press conference hoping to hear a solution for 2018.

“I’m frustrated, I didn’t get anything out of it,” he said.

Zook is being forced to go onto Medica after his company eliminated his retirement insurance because of Obamacare costs.  He doesn't think he can afford it.

“I was waiting for the stopgap, I was waiting on people like these senators and these representatives for some solutions, and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Zook.

The Nevada legislature passed a similar bill, but it was vetoed by its Republican governor.