DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced Thursday that he had reached an agreement with federal authorities to expand health care to the state's poorest residents.
Iowa had sought a waiver enabling the state to get more federal Medicaid money for the proposed Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service said that the waiver request was granted but that the state could not charge premiums on people with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty line.
Iowa lawmakers in May approved legislation to accept funds offered to states that expand Medicaid under the new federal health care law.
The plan, submitted in August, would cover an estimated 150,000 low-income Iowans not now receiving Medicaid. Those with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty line — less than 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 the poverty line — between about $24,000 and $32,000 annually for a family of four— would get private health plans on the new health care exchanges with their premiums paid for with the federal dollars.
The state will start charging small monthly premiums to those with incomes over half of the federal poverty line in 2015. The premiums would be waived if people meet certain health goals, or in cases of hardship, and the out-of-pocket costs could not exceed 5 percent of their annual income
Branstad has said premiums will promote healthier behaviors. As part of the compromise, the state can still charge premiums to those between 50 and 100 percent of the poverty level, but those people can't lose coverage for nonpayment, said Branstad adviser Michael Bousselot. He noted that the state can seek to collect any debts.
More than 50,000 Iowa residents are already signed up for the Iowa Health and Wellness plan, all of whom are currently on a different low-income health program set to expire at the end of the year. Thousands more have applied for state coverage and may be eligible.The agreement will be finalized by the end of the month, with coverage set to start Jan. 1.
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