- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Senate Democrats said Thursday that they plan to pass a bill next week that would halt Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to turn over management of the state’s Medicaid program to three companies, even though there is little chance that the GOP-led House would support it.

The bill introduced in a subcommittee Wednesday would direct the Iowa Department of Human Services to immediately give a 30-day notice of contract termination to the companies and to continue previous efforts to improve patient outcomes, increase access to care, and make the public management of Medicaid more efficient.

Senate leaders plan to pass the bill out of committees on Monday, which would make it eligible for floor debate on Thursday.

“Constituents have told us over and over again the governor’s plan is failing. He’s tried to do too much too fast and as a result he has failed to protect vulnerable Iowans,” Senate President Pam Jochum said.

Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said the bill would have no chance of passing in her chamber and that she is disappointed that opponents continue to fight Branstad’s privatization plan.

“I’m certainly not interested in passing any bill that faces a certain veto, so that’s probably not something we’ll do,” she said.

Upmeyer said the current Medicaid system continually uses up more state funding and has problems because it doesn’t focus on wellness, chronic disease management and making people better.

The transition from state management of the $4.2 billion program that provides health care to 560,000 poor children, families and disabled people to private oversight was delayed by the federal government in December when officials concluded that Iowa wasn’t ready. Implementation was moved to March 1 from the original Jan. 1 date.

Branstad proposed the idea in January 2015, saying it would save the state tens of millions of dollars and provide better care.

Critics have said families are worried they’ll have to change doctors and other providers, and that they might not continue to receive the same services.

“This thing’s a mess right now,” Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal said. “The rollout has been horrible. It’s a disaster.”

Branstad’s spokesman, Ben Hammes, said Senate Democrats have played politics with Medicaid from the beginning.

“We know that managed care means more doctors for Medicaid patients. We know that managed care means better access for those patients to doctors. And we know that managed care means curbing the exponential cost growth associated with Medicaid,” he said.

The state will move forward in securing federal government approval for implementing the plan in March, he said.

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