- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A privately managed care company or set of companies will help run Iowa’s Medicaid program under a plan introduced by Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration.

More coordinated care would better serve Medicaid patients and lower costs, Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said. The system could be implemented by the start of 2016, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1C5VSCb ).

“The growth of Medicaid spending in Iowa is unsustainable over the long-term and it limits Iowa’s ability to provide high-quality and stable health services to our most vulnerable residents as well as our ability to invest state taxpayer dollars in other key programs aimed at growing our state,” Centers said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The arrangement allows a private company to oversee a large health care program and share savings obtained by more efficient care. Iowa currently has two such contracts for some services under Medicaid, which is jointly financed by state and federal governments.

Branstad’s office projects the state would save more than $50 million in the first six months of the new program. Amy McCoy, spokeswoman with the state Department of Human Services, said that figure is based on calculations from an actuary company.

State lawmakers say they need more information about the system before they can comment on it, the newspaper reported. Rep. Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant and co-chairman of the main legislative committee overseeing health care programs, said Branstad has the authority to make such changes without a vote in the Legislature.

Heaton told the newspaper that DHS plans to put out a formal plan by March 1. It’s unclear when companies might start bidding for the program.

More than 560,000 Iowa residents are covered under Medicaid, which helps pay for health care for the needy, aged and disabled, and for low-income families with children.

The state chips in $1.5 billion to help fund Iowa’s Medicaid program, McCoy said, noting that’s up more than 70 percent since 2003.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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