DES MOINES (AP) — A leading health care advocate in the Iowa Legislature said Thursday that he’s working to organize a nonpartisan health care summit to determine how Iowa moves ahead with the federal overhaul largely upheld Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat, said he’s been talking with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s chief of staff, Jeff Boeyink, who has expressed willingness to assemble a summit organized by nonpartisan third parties.
Branstad’s spokesman, Tim Albrecht, said the Governor’s Office is interested in discussing such matters, “but it would be premature to commit to any specific event” until the implications for Iowa have been reviewed.
Branstad, meanwhile, released a statement calling the court’s ruling “a disastrous decision to uphold President Obama’s destructive health care law” and is seeking to have it repealed. Republican legislative leaders said the law could lead to increased taxes as health insurance is offered to more people.
About 366,000 Iowans — roughly 12 percent of the population — are uninsured, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2011.
“Iowans are perfectly capable of making health care decisions on their own; they don’t need Washington, D.C., telling them what to do,” said Republican House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer.
Iowa does not have a law establishing the new online health insurance markets required under the law. Called exchanges, the new markets are supposed to be up and running on Jan. 1, 2014. People buying coverage individually, as well as small businesses, will be able to shop for private coverage from a range of competing insurers.
Branstad had said Iowa would create a state-based exchange only if the Supreme Court upheld the law. He was not immediately available to comment beyond his statement after the court’s ruling.
Hatch said bringing together a variety of individuals and groups dealing with health care in a summit would help Iowa work through the law’s complexities and meet the federal requirements. He said state officials have done some preparation and the state has received two federal grants totaling $8 million, one of which was used to help plan the exchange and another that helped the state comply with new electronic record-keeping requirements.
Branstad also signed a measure into law establishing a new licensing requirement for health insurance “navigators,” to comply with the federal law. The navigators act as insurance agents to guide customers through the enrollment process.
Upmeyer said the state has enacted other pieces of the health care law, including a website that helps Iowans buy insurance. But the website doesn’t meet all federal requirements, and Upmeyer said more legislation would be needed to comply.
While upholding most of the law, the court found problems with the expansion of Medicaid, although the majority of justices said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states’ entire Medicaid allotments if they don’t take part in the law’s expansion.
Hatch said Democrats would continue to push to have the state participate in Medicaid expansion.
Republican House Speak Kraig Paulsen said that he opposes what he calls government-run health care and that any talk of adding more people to Medicaid is premature. He believes voters will express displeasure in the November election and the law may be overturned before states have to make such a decision.