- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Legislature should have more oversight of this year’s plans to transition the state’s Medicaid program into private managed care, representatives for several medical groups told a House panel Wednesday.

Lobbyists for groups representing children and older people, among others, expressed their support for a bill making its way through the House that would create a commission that provides transition guidelines and offers rules for private managed care contracts. The Senate passed the bill unanimously this month.

“This is beyond a big deal, this is huge,” said John Hale of The Hale Group, a private consulting firm that advocates over long-term care issues. “The need for legislative oversight is in my mind, critical … it’s an obligation that you folks have to make sure that this is done as well as it can possibly be done.”

A three-member House Human Resources subcommittee will discuss the bill further before it can advance to a full committee.

Iowa’s Medicaid program provides care to poor children, families and disabled people, as well as some low-income adults. The $4.2 billion program is funded through state and federal dollars.

The state Department of Human Services announced plans earlier this year to switch to private managed care, a move that’s gradually raised concerns from lawmakers about what they say is a rushed timetable for its rollout. The program is set to launch in 2016.

DHS lobbyist Jennifer Harbison told lobbyists and lawmakers at the subcommittee meeting that officials are studying the bill and may suggest some changes. Agency Director Charles Palmer expressed general support for the bill during a recent Senate committee, where he was repeatedly asked about the changes.

DHS has said the state is expected to save more than $50 million in the first six months of the new program.

Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, defended the rollout earlier this month following critical remarks from Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

“Gov. Branstad wants to modernize Iowa’s Medicaid system, tying the patient and the quality of their outcome to payment received. While new to Iowa, this is not a novel concept around the country,” Centers said in a statement at the time.


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