Editorial: Healthy Iowa Plan Better for Low-Income Residents

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By Representative Walt Rogers

I have the privilege of guiding the legislation pertaining to the Healthy Iowa Plan, the alternative to Medicaid expansion, in the Iowa House. Last week, the House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate. I read The Des Moines Resister’s editorial about the bill (“Branstad Plan Still Pales Next to Medicaid,” May 2) and it left me greatly disappointed that the largest newspaper in our state could write an opinion so biased and incomplete.

I, and every legislator in the House, understand the seriousness of this legislation. It doesn’t take an “expert” to do that. It takes caring, objective and discerning people to assess our situation economically and morally.

Medicaid is a flawed and inadequate system. Inadequate was the word used byproponents of Medicaid at the recent public hearing on the Healthy Iowa Plan.

Medicaid’s reimbursement rates are poor, it is wrought with fraud (100 billion dollars nationwide in some estimates), it only pays for service instead of inspiring healthy habits, and causes insurance and overall costs to skyrocket. It literally fuels an explosion of the federal budget and taxpayer debt.

A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the federal government will spend almost a trillion dollars expanding Medicaid. States that do not agree to the expansion could potentially save the country $609 billion.

The Register’s editorial implies that House Republicans “fell in line” and backed the Healthy Iowa Plan, which is far from the reality. What we did is analyze the plan with discernment and seriousness and came to the same conclusion the governor did.

The Healthy Iowa Plan is a better option than Medicaid expansion at keeping low-income Iowans healthy while sustaining a thriving economy. It incentivizes members to take an active role in their own health and health plans, using modern accountability techniques, regional structures, local primary care facilities and personal reward health incentive accounts. Medicaid needs an overhaul and we all know it.

The Register points to an elephant in the room pertaining to the federal government’s apparent unwillingness to approve our plan. In my closing comments on the bill I highlighted a letter to Iowa Senate Democrats from the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ office that essentially said most of the tenets of the Healthy Iowa Plan are acceptable. While obtaining the waiver is not simple, according to this letter, it is a strong and viable option.

The Iowa House is committed to approving a plan that helps all Iowans become healthier while doing it in a fiscally and morally responsible way. Because of our good financial situation, Iowa can be a leader in the country by putting forth a responsible option to Medicaid expansion.

My challenge to the Register’s editorial board is to take off its blinders and look honestly at the whole landscape of this serious decision.

Representative Rogers is an Assistant Leader for House Republicans and the floor manager of the Healthy Iowa Plan.

Rep. Rogers editorial appeared in the May 8th Des Moines Register

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