(DES MOINES) The Branstad Administration is being urged not to penalize Iowa hospitals, nursing homes and other providers if they haven’t signed contracts with private Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) by January 1, 2016. Under the Administration’s current rules, health care providers that have not signed with a MCO by then will have their payments cut by 10 percent.
Chuck Palmer, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), has been asked by key State Senators to either eliminate the penalty or push back the deadline by six months.
The request came in the form of a letter from the three Democratic senators on the Health Policy Committee: Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City, the co-chair of that committee and the co-chair of the Joint Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee; Senator Liz Mathis of Robins, chair of the Senate Human Resources Committee; and Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, a member of both the Joint Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee and the Senate Human Resources Committee.
“The Iowans who actually do the work of providing Medicaid-funded services have asked for our help to slow down this poorly managed process,” said Senator Ragan. “Community hospital administrators, mental health providers, in-home nurses and others have contacted me, saying they are being pressured to sign contracts without knowing all the details. All these Iowa health care providers want is to be certain they are making good business decisions so they can meet the needs of their clients and continue to operate.”
In a November 9 letter, the senators ask Director Palmer to either eliminate or put off for six months the deadline for signing with the private managed care companies. They wrote:
“This policy is not only punitive and predatory, it will put many health care providers out of business and further reduce access to affordable, quality health care for tens of thousands of vulnerable Iowans.”
The Senators wrote that Iowa DHS has missed a number of important deadlines including: “selecting the MCOs; contracting with the MCOs; setting rate floors; and, sending out introductory letters and enrollment packets.”
Senator Mathis said: “By missing all those deadlines, DHS inadvertently took away time providers need to negotiate fair contracts with four different companies. It is in the best interests of everyone involved to slow this down and make sure we get it right.”
In their letter, the Senators asked for an answer no later than Friday, November 13, 2015.
As the January 1 deadline nears, the fate of Governor Branstad’s Medicaid privatization is still uncertain. For example, there are several lawsuits alleging that the contracts were awarded improperly. In addition:
- Last Tuesday, federal officials announced they were taking measures to hear from Iowans directly about concerns the new system is not ready to administer health care services to 560,000 Iowans, many of whom live with serious health care challenges. (1)
- That same day, a motion to delay the start of privatization for six months failed on a tie vote in the Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee. (2)
- Last Friday, November 6, the federal officials who still have yet to approve the Branstad proposal issued a public letter echoing many of the concerns raised at local meetings across the state. (3)
- One month from now, on December 7, the Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee will meet again. This second meeting will focus on the concerns of Iowa families who depend on Medicaid and those of Iowa health care providers. Senate Democrats are likely to again push for a delay of Iowa Medicaid privatization. (4)
“The Branstad Administration’s push to privatize Medicaid faster and more completely than any other state is floundering,” said Senator Bolkcom. “That’s why Iowa families who get health care through Medicaid and the people providing that care are urging the Legislature to straighten this mess out.”