Affordable Care Act/Obamacare

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

Iowans who buy their own health insurance will have more options for coverage under the Affordable Care Act next year, but the price of that coverage is still unclear.

Insurance premiums for plans under the Affordable Care Act spiked this year when only one company agreed to sell insurance in the state. That company is Medica, and it’s proposing more plan options for next year.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowans who are struggling to afford health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace gathered around Gov. Kim Reynolds today as she signed legislation allowing a lower-cost, unregulated product to take the place of traditional insurance. 

Under the bill, the plans will not be required to cover pre-existing conditions or other mandates of Obamacare.  

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

A bill to allow cheaper health plans that don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act passed the Iowa Senate Tuesday and is heading to the governor’s desk.

Supporters say the new plans—offered through a Farm Bureau partnership with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield—would be a cheaper health care option for people who can’t pay the increasing price of insurance under the ACA.

“This bill is about getting those folks insured,” says Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan. “It’s a great investment.”

John Pemble/IPR

Iowans who are getting health insurance through the individual marketplace under the Affordable Care Act would have a new option under a bill that passed  by a large margin  in  the Iowa Senate last night.   

Under the bill, the Iowa Farm Bureau would offer what are being called barebones health plans not subject to the rules of the ACA,  including covering pre-existing conditions and other  mandates.

That would be allowed because the plans are not insurance policies. 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

More than 56,000 Iowans are enrolled in an individual health insurance plan for 2018 through the Affordable Care Act, according to Medica, the only insurance company left on Iowa's ACA exchange. 

An Iowa Insurance Division spokesman says that number is, "roughly in line with the 18,000 to 22,000 [consumers] we expected to leave the market." 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

It’s one month into the sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act, and the number of Iowans who have signed up for health insurance is much higher than at this time last year.

benjamin sTone/flickr

A health care option that’s an alternative to traditional insurance has been growing in popularity in Iowa and across the country.    

Members of so-called health care sharing ministries write checks every month to cover the health care bills of other members, without the guarantees and oversight of traditional insurance.  

Even more Iowans are expected to enroll now that some premiums under the Affordable Care Act have skyrocketed.  

Navigating Health Insurance

Nov 2, 2017
Flickr Creative Commons

Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is open through December 15 of this year.

"There's lots of mixed messaging and we don't have the advertising dollars to set the record straight," says Nicole Kock, a health insurance navigator with Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. But, she adds, "The marketplace is here. We've got an insurer that's committed to Iowans for 2018."

kim reynolds
John Pemble/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds has been in office for five months.  In the first half of this River to River program, host Ben Kieffer asks Reynolds about health care, opioid abuse, partisan politics, and the upcoming legislative session.

To start, Reynolds says she had a number of topics to offer Iowa's congressional delegation. 

She says that she thanked them for support of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and work on healthcare.  Her priorities for next legislative session are getting a water quality bill and having a competitive bushiness environment.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa's U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’s hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation she says will help people facing steep premium increases for individual health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.

About 72-thousand people in Iowa face increases of nearly 60% after the state withdrew its proposal for a stopgap plan that would have provided relief. In this interview with River to River host Ben Kieffer, Ernst says the current situation puts a lot of Iowans in a bind.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A plan that officials had hoped would keep health insurance affordable for thousands of Iowans has been withdrawn, clearing the way for premiums to more than double.    

Governor Reynolds' administration had been urging the federal government to approve its so-called stopgap plan.  

The plan would have restructured benefits for Iowans getting individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act in order to draw in more young healthy people to keep premiums down.  

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Navigators are getting ready to sign Iowans up for Obamacare next month despite uncertainty surrounding the health care law. They are preparing for the regular enrollment period as state and federal lawmakers continue to push for changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Karen Sullivan of Visiting Nurse Services manages a program in central Iowa that helps people sign up for insurance through the ACA. She says navigators are still scheduling appointments for November. 

A 'Zig-Zag' Edition of Politics Day

Oct 20, 2017
Ben Terrett

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says it is difficult to govern with what he calls a president "zigging and zagging" on his support of bipartisan efforts to make changes to the Affordable Care Act. In this politics Wednesday edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by professor of political science at Iowa State University, Jim McCormick.

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Images Money / flickr

It’s less than two weeks until people have to start signing up for next year’s health insurance plans, and Iowans who buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what system they will use to buy insurance, what plans will be available to them, or how much they will have to pay.

Iowa is waiting for a last-minute decision from federal agencies on whether Iowans will buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, or through the state’s proposed "stopgap" system.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she hasn’t received any indication from the White House that it opposes Iowa’s attempt to lower premium rates for health insurance policies on the Obamacare exchange.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Organizations that help Iowans sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are dealing with new funding cuts.

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced various grant reductions for ACA navigators. Some cuts are as high as 90 percent.

Genesis Health in the Quad Cities is facing a 90 percent cut to is ACA navigator grant.

doug ommen
Joyce Russell / IPR

Iowa’s insurance commissioner says he is now "less optimistic" about winning federal approval for a plan to stabilize the state’s individual health insurance market.

The state of Iowa submitted a "stopgap" plan to federal agencies in August. It would change the distribution of insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen told lawmakers Tuesday he was hoping to know by now whether the plan would be approved.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa has submitted a "stopgap" plan to the federal government with the goal of stabilizing the state’s collapsing individual health insurance market.

The plan redirects federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to encourage younger, healthier people to buy insurance.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says the plan to change parts of the ACA will prevent thousands from dropping insurance. 

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst says she wants the federal government to continue making payments for Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop making "cost-sharing reduction" payments.

That uncertainty has led the only health insurance company left on Iowa’s exchange to propose a nearly 57 percent rate hike for 2018. Medica originally requested a 43 percent increase. 

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

At a town hall Tuesday in Washington, Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst took several questions about the so-far unsuccessful Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some questioners asked Sen. Ernst to support "Medicare for all," while others said they want no government involvement in health insurance.

Ernst says bipartisan groups of lawmakers are working on healthcare solutions after "repeal and replace" legislation failed several times in the Senate this year.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

The Iowa Insurance Division is getting close to finalizing its "stopgap" plan to prop up the state’s individual health insurance market under the Affordable Care Act.

An independent economic analysis shows more Iowans will be able to keep their individual ACA health insurance if the federal government approves the state’s stopgap plan.

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Images Money / flickr

Iowans who buy individual health insurance on the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange could see even higher premiums next year if President Donald Trump stops funding subsidies that lower the coverage costs for some patients.

The president has been threatening to stop making cost sharing reduction (CSR) paymentss He may make a decision on CSR this week. 

Medica, the only company still on Iowa’s exchange for 2018, says it will raise premiums if President Trump cuts that funding.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says he plans to vote “Yes” on a motion to proceed with debate on a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act. If it passes, this vote won’t repeal Obamacare, but it is a key procedural step towards what has been the goal of Republican senators for the past seven years.

Grassley says voting to proceed allows for a more inclusive process.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll vote for or against a healthcare bill that would allow insurance companies to limit what they’d pay for certain services.

The Senate Obamacare repeal bill proposes allowing states to redefine which services insurance companies are required to cover. The concern is this could result in dollar limits for things like hospitalizations or prescription drugs.

Grassley says senators are still submitting amendments, so he’s not ready to take a position until he’s seen the final bill.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Sen. Joni Ernst held a town hall meeting in Harlan before heading back to Washington from the July 4 recess. Most of the questions she fielded focused on the Senate Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said if the slim Republican majority can’t come together, a bipartisan solution might be next. Some of the town hall's attendees favored compromise.

But while speaking with reporters, Ernst didn’t seem receptive to that idea quite yet.

Flickr / William Patrick Butler

Sen. Chuck Grassley says he probably won’t support an amendment by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill.  Cruz proposes allowing insurance companies to sell two types of healthcare policies, one that is compliant with the Affordable Care Act and one that is not.

Grassley says he’s concerned how Cruz's amendment might affect people with pre-existing conditions. 

FLICKR / JENNIFER MORROW

People in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties may have no options in 2018 for buying individual healthcare polices on the state's insurance exchange that was created under the Affordable Care Act. 

Currently nearly 48,000 people have insurance through Iowa's ACA exchange. But recently two of the three insurers providing individual plans announced they were leaving the Iowa market next year.

That left Minnesota-based Medica to be the exchange's likely sole participant. Now Medica is saying that it too may be leaving the state.

The Iowa Hospital Association says it’s important not to lose the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. The warning comes after the insurance carriers Aetna and Wellmark announced this week that in 2018, they’ll stop selling individual policies on Iowa’s healthcare exchange created under the ACA.

Iowa will soon have only two insurance carriers providing individual healthcare policies. Connecticut-based Aetna has become the second company this week to announce it will stop selling insurance policies on Iowa’s public exchange in January 2018.

Earlier this week the Iowa Insurance Commission announced that Wellmark would also no longer provide individual plans in Iowa. Wellmark says rising costs are causing its departure. Aetna cites financial risk and an uncertain market outlook for its decision to exit.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act by House Republicans will have to be rewritten. Yesterday the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that found some 24 million people who currently have health insurance would not be covered by 2026 under the GOP proposal. 

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