Government

Hubbell calls for end of Iowa's privatized Medicaid

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful wants program returned to state management

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Fred Hubbell (second from right) talks with Jay Wurtele of Cedar Rapids (left), Jamie Henley and Darlene Schmidt during a Tuesday tour of the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids. Hubbell visited the clinic as part of a statewide tour of health care providers to talk with providers and patients, like Wurtele, who comes to the clinic for insulin he cannot otherwise afford. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Fred Hubbell (second from right) talks with Jay Wurtele of Cedar Rapids (left), Jamie Henley and Darlene Schmidt during a Tuesday tour of the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids. Hubbell visited the clinic as part of a statewide tour of health care providers to talk with providers and patients, like Wurtele, who comes to the clinic for insulin he cannot otherwise afford. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Fred Hubbell said, if elected, one of his top goals would be to undo former Gov. Terry Branstad’s privatization of Iowa Medicaid.

“I think I’ve tried to be pretty clear, that’s been an absolute failure across our state,” Hubbell said of Iowa Medicaid, which transitioned to privatized managed care about two years ago.

Hubbell said it would be his goal to transition managed care back to state management.

“You don’t have to bring back all of it at once,” Hubbell said in a Tuesday interview with The Gazette. “I would hope that within a year of getting into office you could have it all back under state management and state employees.”

To showcase his plan to provide more accessible and affordable health care, Hubbell on Tuesday began his three-day “Restoring Iowa’s Health Care Tour,” which includes eight stops from Clinton to Sioux City.

Hubbell’s tour of medical facilities began at the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids.

Clinic CEO Darlene Schmidt said clinic saw a 23 percent increase in patients in the first seven months of fiscal year 2018 and a 16 percent increase in total services compared to the same time last fiscal year.

While that growth is significant, Schmidt said it’s difficult to say with 100 percent certainty what caused the increase.

“We can’t say it’s due to Medicaid going private, we just don’t know that,” she said.

Schmidt said that one of the clinic’s biggest issues is that many patients who are on Medicaid still struggle to pay their deductibles or copay fees.

Whether that issue would be fixed with Medicaid under state management is difficult to know, she added.

“I think it’s like trying to grab fog out of the air. You just don’t know until you try it,” Schmidt said.

Meanwhile, on the same day Hubbell kicked off his three-day tour, the Republican Party of Iowa released a statement accusing the former chairman of Younkers, along with fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Nate Boulton and Cathy Glasson, of trying to perform a “government takeover of health care.”

“Fred Hubbell would rather take the route that makes D.C. Democrats happy,” spokesperson Jesse Doughterty said. “The longer Hubbell runs his backwards campaign, the more out of touch he becomes. Opposing bipartisan solutions in favor of socialized medicine is just the latest new low.”

Hubbell, however, said Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Medicaid system deprives Iowans of care, denies or reduces services and has forced facilities to close.

In addition to health care, Hubbell — during a Tuesday meeting with The Gazette — talked about plans to balance the state’s budget, find funding for water quality, education and infrastructure and looking at ways of raising the state’s minimum wage.

Hubbell, of Des Moines, faces a packed gubernatorial field in the June 5 Democratic primary.

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Also running are state Sen. Nate Boulton, Andy McGuire and John Norris, all of Des Moines, Cathy Glasson of Coralville and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn of Ames.

The Democratic nominee likely will face Reynolds in the November general election, though former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is attempting to challenge Reynolds in the GOP primary.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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