Branstad says he's still opposed to Medicaid expansion in Iowa

Governor believes expansion would be too costly

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad hasn't changed his opposition to increasing the Medicaid rolls in Iowa, despite a decision by the Republican governor of Ohio to support expansion of that state's Medicaid program, an aide said Tuesday.

Branstad's spokesman Tim Albrecht said the Republican governor still believes raising the Medicaid eligibility limits would be too costly. Branstad does support continuing the IowaCare program, a state and federally funded plan that provides limited health coverage to low-income adults, Albrecht said.

"The expansion of Medicaid without any attention to outcomes fails the very people Medicaid intends to serve: vulnerable Iowans," he said in an emailed statement.

President Barack Obama's health care overhaul provides funding to states that expand Medicaid.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in his budget address Monday that he supports doing that in Ohio using federal funds. He may have difficulty winning support for the proposal from the state's Republican-controlled legislature.

In Iowa, Democrats in the state Senate have introduced legislation that would broaden eligibility requirements for the Medicaid program, which covers low-income residents, including children and the disabled.

Under the plan, the Medicaid eligibility limit would be raised to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 annually for an individual. If expanded, as many as 150,000 people could be added to the state's Medicaid rolls, mostly low-income adults who don't have children. Some of those people are currently covered by IowaCare.

Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington DC, spoke to a legislative committee Tuesday about the benefits of an Iowa Medicaid expansion, arguing that it would benefit children and families and that the state's spending will not increase.

"Expanding Medicaid has a very serious benefit for children. When parents are covered, children are more likely to get covered, they're more likely to get care," Solomon said.

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