Monday, December 7, 2015

Disability & Elderly Advocates Protest Iowa's Medicaid Privatization Plans

Governor Terry Branstad and his administration announced early this year that Iowa would completely privatize its Medicaid system on January 1, 2016. Gov Branstad said that this switch would save the state $51 million within the first six month. Court testimony has subsequently revealed that they pulled that number out of nowhere. Since then, they have contracted with four MCOs (Wellcare, Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare, and Americare).

Medicaid providers can sign up to work with any or all of these MCOs. Outside of pharmacies, service providers have been slow to sign up with the new MCOs. For example, the big news late last week was that three hospital groups in Iowa have signed up with MCOs. This was supposed to be a reassuring announcement, but news sources conveniently failed to note that the hospitals have only signed with a fraction of the MCOs. Genesis signed with UnitedHealthCare and Amerigroup and UIHC and UnityPoint have each signed with UnitedHealthCare.

Medicaid recipients are supposed to sign with an MCO by 12/17/15, but they and their guardians are understandably upset. They are supposed to make informed decisions, but can't even figure out if their medical and long-term care providers are signed up with one MCO or the other.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently in Iowa. They are required to review and sign off on Iowa's Medicaid privatization plan. CMS can deny or delay these plans. Advocates are in Des Moines today communicating their concerns and this goal (deny or delay) to CMS and the state:
The about 75 loaded a chartered bus in Cedar Rapids at around 6:30 a.m. to attend a Legislative Oversight Committee meeting starting at 10 a.m. A few of the protestors plan to speak during the public comment period Monday afternoon. Rhonda Shouse, a Medicaid user from Cedar Rapids, organized the charter with the help of an anonymous donor. She believes the move to privatize by January 1st is too fast. “We haven't had time to consider what managed care really is because the information timeline is ridiculously fast and reckless,” Shouse said in a statement. “Let's delay this and take time to have the necessary discussion we should have had when he brought this up in February.” Governor Terry Branstad's plan to privatize calls for four out-of-state companies to manage Iowa's Medicaid system by the end of the year. The state's 560,000 users have until December 17th to sign up for one of the four plans within the new system.
There are plans for people driving out of Iowa City and Sioux City today as well.

The Branstad administration is committed to seeing this privatization through to completion. So it all comes down to CMS to delay these plans until everything is ready to go or until an alternate plan is decided upon.

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