Branstad opposes Medicaid expansion in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Branstad opposes Medicaid expansion in Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

One in nine Iowans don't have health insurance.  Part of the federal Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," looks to lower that number by bringing more people onto Medicaid, but Governor Terry Branstad is against that, insisting he's got a better plan to help the uninsured.

Branstad's chief concern is that federal money being offered to pay for medicaid expansion won't last forever.  Without that support, the state could be stuck footing the medicaid bill for 150,000 Iowans. 

Doctors admit Medicaid can be a hassle, but say getting more people access to insurance benefits everyone in the long run.

Dr. James Selenke has run a small family practice clinic in Hudson for 23 years.  He's seen a lot of changes in healthcare, including more work to handle Medicare and Medicaid patients.

"We now have two full-time people who basically work on scheduling and billing and submitting charges, etc.," said Selenke.

While it takes a lot of time, Dr. Selenke says there's no question:  having federally paid-for insurance programs gets more people into his office for preventative care.  Without insurance, they get sicker and often end up in the more costly emergency room. 

"Vision loss, kidney damage, heart disease, etc., all that can be prevented or delayed substantially if you could treat these people earlier and treat them well," Dr. Selenke said.

Under Obamacare, expanding Medicaid could save Iowa a half billion dollars over the next 10 years, but Governor Branstad says not so fast...

"Our biggest concern is the federal government is going to have to deal with budget deficit, and when they do, we're concerned the taxpayers of Iowa will get stuck with a program we can't sustain," Branstad said.

Instead, he's proposing an alternative.

"Our Healthy Iowa plan is designed to provide insurance coverage for everybody above 100 percent of poverty.  It's a subsidized program where they can actually get insurance coverage," Branstad said.

Partnerships with hospitals would provide additional coverage.  Still, some medical providers say the governor's plan lacks details.  But in the end, they believe any program that can help get more people insured is a good thing.

"I want the best for my patients, and yes, it's more of a hassle for us, but ultimately, it's the patient that counts," said Dr. Selenke.

It's estimated Governor Branstad's proposal would cover 89,000 uninsured Iowans, at a cost of $162 million the first year.  On the flip side, uninsured people cost taxpayers over $40 billion a year nationwide, through higher health care and insurance costs we pay to cover people who can't pay their own medical bills.

Iowa Democrats, including Senator Harkin, strongly oppose the governor's rejection of federal Medicaid help.  But any plan to expand medicaid or start a new program to help uninsured Iowans will have to be approved by the full state legislature.

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