DES MOINES, Iowa -- The 2018 Iowa legislative session is now underway, and one of the hot budget issues at the Capitol this year is the state's Medicaid program.
Last week, Governor Reynolds said she has no interest in changing paths from privatized management, but the top Democrat in the House said on Monday that his party will push for change. The governor is hoping a new Medicaid director, who's already been on the job for one month, will fix the state's Medicaid problems.
Jessica Laurie is one of the Iowans affected by Medicaid, as she says her four-year-old daughter Janyia's life depends on the program.
“Her health, just medications, nursing, it adds up to a lot of money, so taking it away maybe long term, maybe not my situation but there are so many other people out there, it might force them to put their child or loved one in a facility," Laurie said.
But new director of Medicaid, Mike Randol, says cutting services is unlikely.
“What we want to make sure we do in a Medicaid program in the state of Iowa is give the appropriate service for the individual at the right time and that they work with their managed care organization, work with the state, to ensure those services are being provided,” Medicaid Director Mike Randol said.
However, Disability Rights Iowa lawyer Cyndy Miller says that's exactly what has not been happening.
“If the state savings comes on the backs of vulnerable individuals with disabilities, that's not appropriate," she said.
The state found privately-managed Medicaid, which was started under former Governor Branstad in 2015, will save far less money than predicted. Now, Randol is working to figure out why.
“When I came in, I took a look at the information kind of how we were projecting some of those savings and cost avoidance, and I think there is a method which could be more comprehensive, and that's what I'm working on to ensure that we include all the variables,” he said.
The variables Laurie worries about are the ones that keep her daughter alive.
“She is on a nebulizer and vest treatment every six hours, that's around the clock. She's on her feeding pump for 20 hours, she's constant suctioning, and me, myself, I can't stay up for 24 hours a day," Laurie said.
Laurie expressed frustration with Medicaid administrators trying take away in-home care services for Janyia.
The Disability Rights Iowa organization is starting an online movement called #IamMedicaidIowa. The goal is to give lawmakers a chance to see faces, rather than dollar signs. Click here for more information.