Governor signs Iowa Health and Wellness Plan into law - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Governor signs Iowa Health and Wellness Plan into law

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Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan into law on Thursday, which would overhaul the state's healthcare system and cover thousands of uninsured Iowans. Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan into law on Thursday, which would overhaul the state's healthcare system and cover thousands of uninsured Iowans.
WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan into law on Thursday.

If approved by the federal government, it would overhaul the state's healthcare system and cover thousands of uninsured Iowans.

Branstad said the law will build Iowa into a healthier state.

People's Community Health Clinic in Waterloo is one of several clinics behind the new law because it allows affordable healthcare for a group of uninsured Iowans who aren't currently eligible for Medicaid.

"It's very good to know that more people are going to have access to health coverage, and it will also be local coverage," said CEO of People's Community Health Clinic Jennifer Lightbody.

"It's one of the milestones in universal health coverage, and we're real excited to see that happening," she added.

Under the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, health insurance will still be available for people living below the poverty level, or those individuals earning less than about $11,500 a year.

But it will also be available for people earning up to 138 percent above the poverty level, or individuals making less than about $16,000 a year. That particular group of uninsured Iowans will now have access to affordable healthcare.

But there are strings attached to the Medicaid expansion.

"It's not just a traditional expansion," said University of Northern Iowa associate professor of political science Chris Larimer. "It's an expansion with certain accountability measures.

"If you want to avoid an increase in your premiums, you need to participate in a healthy activity plan, you need to have screening checks, do sorts of things you know that are preventative measures," he added.

Lightbody said it's a good move for the state.

"Prevention is well worth the investment in that it saves money in the long run, it saves quality of life, it saves hospital bills," she said. "Overall, if someone can be encouraged to follow more healthy behaviors, then we as a nation are really going to be much better off."

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay for Medicaid expansion coverage for the first three years.

The law still must be approved by the federal government. If approved, it would be implemented in 2014.

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