Managed Medicaid in Iowa: What members, state leaders are saying 5 years out

It's been five years since Iowa moved its Medicaid program from a state-run system to one led by private, out-of-state insurance companies, but criticism of the transition has continued, The Gazette reported.

The newer $5 billion program, which now covers more than 700,000 Iowa residents with low incomes and disabilities, has been met with complaints from providers, members and state representatives regarding low service reimbursement rates, struggles to obtain care and whether the transition is actually saving the state money.

Garrett Frey, a quadriplegic, said getting the in-home care he needs through the new program has been challenging. 

"I have a great support system, but I do not know where I'd be without them," Mr. Frey told The Gazette. "But I do not feel my mom should feel compelled to be my primary caregiver, or any of my family."

Jenn Wolff, a disability advocate, told the publication, "Iowans were made more vulnerable by privatization," and that Mr. Frey is one of many Medicaid members struggling to get the care they need, a complaint similar to those made prior to the program's overhaul in 2016.

According to the director of Iowa's Department of Human Services, Kelly Garcia, the program is stable, and DHS is adding staff that will focus on member and provider complaints.

"Any big system is going to have some challenges. It's really important that we hear those and then we get to whether it is a one off or is a systemic issue," she told The Gazette.

State Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said the new program has cost Iowa taxpayers millions while out-of-state insurance companies have profited substantially over the last two fiscal years.

Ms. Garcia said the state is saving money compared to the previous program, The Gazette reported.

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