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Senate President Raises Concerns Over Privatizing Medicaid

Clay Masters
Senate President Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) in her statehouse office.

Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize parts of the state’s Medicaid system is moving forward. Medicaid is the healthcare program for low income Iowans; that represents $4.2 billion in state and federal spending.

The Department of Human Services estimates privatization will save about 50-million-dollars in the first six months. The Branstad administration says savings will come from avoiding duplication of services and offering better preventative care. But Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, has concerns.

“First of all I don’t think the plan was very well thought out yet, (it was) too much too fast,” Jochum says. “I think all of us have been trying to do a lot of research ever since his plan was unveiled on what’s happened in other states that have attempted to do this.”

Jochum says Kentucky is not renewing contracts with private providers and is instead asking for new Requests for Proposals. Jochum says lawmakers have received advice from Kansas about keeping case managers who work with families separate from the private company managing the care.

The Branstad administration says they’re not changing the types of services available through Medicaid. Just the program will now be administered through private companies which will save money.

Ultimately, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare services will need to approve the final plan for any kind of privatized Medicaid system.  

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.