DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa residents will be able to sign up for a new low-income health care program starting today, even though federal authorities have yet to approve the plan, Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday.
The state has applied for a waiver enabling the state to get more federal Medicaid money for the proposed Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, a new health insurance program that would cover up to 150,000 residents.
So far the waiver has not been granted, and Branstad has said federal officials have raised concerns about the use of small premiums for some plan participants. Branstad met with federal authorities last week to urge them to approve Iowa's proposal.
“We're going to continue to go forward on the assumption that the Department of Health and Human Services will approve this,” Branstad said, noting that Arkansas has been granted a waiver to receive Medicaid dollars for a similar program. “We're moving forward with the enrollment process.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Fabien Levy said the waiver application was still under review.
“We are currently reviewing the comments now that the public comment period has closed,” Levy said in a statement.
Enrollment opens today for new health care exchanges, the online marketplaces created under President Barack Obama's health care law that allow users to buy and compare health insurance. Iowa officials said people using the marketplaces that qualify for the new low-income plan would be directed to a state website where they could enroll.
Iowa lawmakers in May approved legislation that accepts federal dollars offered to states that expand Medicaid under the health care overhaul. The plan would cover up to 150,000 low-income Iowa residents not on the current Medicaid plan.
Under the Iowa plan, which was submitted to the federal government last month, those with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty line — under about $24,000 annually for a family of four — would go on a new state-run health plan with benefits similar to those offered to state workers. People with incomes from 101 to 138 percent of poverty — between about $24,000 and $32,000 annually for a family of four— would get private health plans on the new health care exchanges; those premiums would be paid for with the federal dollars.
Starting in 2015, some participants could be subject to small monthly premiums, but those could be waived if they complete certain health goals or in cases of hardship. If approved, the new program would start coverage Jan. 1.
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