COUNCIL BLUFFS — A local hospital official is expressing concerns about Gov. Terry Branstad’s Healthy Iowa plan.
Branstad announced his Healthy Iowa plan Monday, saying it would offer more modest benefits than the proposed expansion of the state’s Medicaid program but would carry less financial risk.
Steve Baumert, president and CEO of Jennie Edmundson Hospital, expressed concern that Healthy Iowa would not cover as many people or services as the Medicaid expansion included in the new federal health care law.
The plan would offer coverage to Iowans making at or below the federal poverty level — $11,170 for an individual — who do not qualify for Medicaid. The state estimated it would cover up to 89,000 people. Those with higher incomes would have to use federal tax credits to buy private insurance on the state’s insurance exchange, which is still in the planning stages.
By contrast, Medicaid expansion would cover Iowans — about 150,000 — at or below 138 percent of the poverty level.
“It’s not going to cover 150,000 people, it’s not going to cover mental health, so it has some shortcomings,” Baumert said. “We’re still advocating for expansion of Medicaid.”
Baumert said it was unclear whether the governor’s plan would, like a Medicaid expansion, reduce the cost of charity care and bad debt currently borne by the state’s hospitals.
“Right now, there’s not enough detail to the plan for us to assess its impact on hospitals’ uncompensated care,” he said.
The lack of mental health coverage would mean the plan would not relieve any of the counties’ financial burden of paying for mental health services for low-income residents.
The plan, Baumert noted, is still evolving as state officials confer with consultants.
Marie Knedler, vice president of operations at Mercy Hospital, said she did not want to comment until further details were released.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.