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Medicaid Privatization Looms

File Photo, House Democratic Caucus
Rep. Patti Ruff (D-McGregor)

With the privatization of Iowa’s health care program for the poor and disabled set to go into effect tomorrow, state lawmakers Wednesday grilled company representatives and Medicaid managers about the change.    

There was emotional debate in the House about a young cancer patient’s treatment being delayed.        

Representative Patti Ruff (D-McGregor) said one of her constituents, a nine-year-old boy, was scheduled to undergo chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic this week.  But the boy’s mother says the therapy did not get underway because of issues with the family’s new for-profit provider.  

“She tried to contact her insurance company to try and get something resolved,” Ruff said.

The Mayo Clinic is not participating in Iowa’s privatization plan.   The boy’s mother says the clinic is asking the family’s new for-profit provider to make an exception and cover continued treatment at Mayo.  

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy McCoy says she can’t comment on individual cases.

“We know that Mayo is not willing to participate, but health plans are willing to do those single-case agreements,” McCoy says.

McCoy says University Hospitals in Iowa City could provide the treatment.   

“People  like to stay with their providers that they know,” McCoy says.   “With some circumstances you do have to make changes with that.”

The boy’s mother says she hopes he will undergo his treatment soon.

“He doesn’t have time on his side,” said Ruff.

Members of the Senate Human Resources committee Wednesday questioned officials about the transition, including representatives from the for-profit companies and an assistant attorney general.  

They urged officials to prepare for questions from patients this weekend as privatization gets underway.

“Friday is a bad time to start a new program,” said Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Robins).