Sparse details on Iowa plans that bypass Obama’s health law

DES MOINES, Iowa — Josh Crist made the two-hour drive to the Iowa Capitol in April to celebrate Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signing of a new health care option designed to lower costs by skirting requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The 35-year-old farmer and electrician from Tipton figured the new plans offered through the conservative and politically powerful Iowa Farm Bureau were certain to reduce the more than $2,000 monthly bill he pays for his family’s health insurance. He had feared the cost would climb as his existing policy expires, forcing him to buy from an ACA exchange without help from subsidies.

But nearly four months later, Crist is still waiting to see the fine print on what exactly would be covered under the Farm Bureau plans, and he’s no longer sure he’ll sign up.

“There’s a lot of unknowns right now,” he said.

The new Iowa option, which Republicans and some Democrats in the Legislature pushed through before knowing many of the details, represents another attempt by GOP-controlled states to chip away at some of the federal rules imposed under the 2010 law championed by former President Barack Obama. It comes as the Trump administration says it’s freezing payments under an “Obamacare” program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses.

“Many Iowans faced a choice of going broke or going without health care coverage. And that’s really not a real choice,” Reynolds’ campaign tweeted earlier this month. “That’s why we found an Iowa approach to help our farmers and small business owners.”

There is no state oversight of the new law, which the Iowa Farm Bureau is offering with assistance from an insurance company. Democrats argue cutting costs can only be achieved by slashing benefits, siphoning young and healthy customers away from the ACA market while increasing the burden for elderly and sicker recipients.

National health care experts have reacted skeptically, arguing it could be a moneymaker for the Farm Bureau but won’t help people most in need.

“If you’re collecting premiums from people who don’t use health care services very much you can make money,” said Sabrina Corlette, a health policy research professor at Georgetown University. “It’s when you actually have to cover medical services that insurance becomes a less-profitable business.”

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said about 26,000 residents quit buying individual policies this year “due to the demoralizing rates faced by Iowa citizens not eligible for subsidies caused by structural defects in the ACA.” Some of that group may have found work that offered insurance or joined a small group policy.

Ommen’s office estimates only about 600 Iowans continued to pay premiums out of their own pockets last year. Many others likely gave up on buying health insurance altogether, determining it’s unaffordable.

Many self-employed Iowans who buy their own insurance are farmers, which is why the Farm Bureau stepped up to offer policies.

Under the law, the Farm Bureau will decide coverage options and prices, pay claims and assume the financial risk. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will process claims and provide access to …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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