Exact change by Lynda Waddington

Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Disability Rights Iowa is encouraging Iowans to hold a #IamMedicaidIowa sign, take a photo and tell their story to lawmakers.
Disability Rights Iowa is encouraging Iowans to hold a #IamMedicaidIowa sign, take a photo and tell their story to lawmakers.

When Iowa lawmakers consider what should be done to improve Iowa Medicaid, Disability Rights Iowa hopes people will be their primary focus.

To that end, the organization is encouraging Iowans to go online and share their stories in an #IamMedicaidIowa awareness campaign.

Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told Iowa Public Radio the idea was hatched following a forum last month that highlighted “turmoil” in the program.

“Many people came up to me and said: ‘Politicians need to see our faces. They are just thinking about the numbers,’ ” Hudson says. “ … That’s why we’re doing this.”

A special announcement on the Disability Rights Iowa website is more blunt: “Many lawmakers and citizens see dollar signs rather than faces when considering Medicaid Managed Care issues in Iowa. Help Disability Rights Iowa show lawmakers that Iowans in the Medicaid Managed Care system are just like them. They want to live in their homes in their communities rather than going to an institution. However, they can’t do so without the state sufficiently funding their services.”

Iowa’s $5 billion fee-for-service Medicaid program was moved to managed care by the Branstad-Reynolds administration in April 2016. The decision came after months of concern, federally mandated delays and legal battles.

Although initially contracting with three managed care companies, all of which reported significant revenue losses, the state now is working with two — one of which says it is at capacity and cannot absorb more patients. State officials reluctantly have reinstated a small pool of fee-for-service care while searching for another managed care provider.

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It hasn’t been an easy transition for patients who rely on Medicaid services or the professionals who provide them. Many report unpaid claims, lengthy appeal processes and a host of other frustrations. Medical suppliers and providers have said they are dipping into personal cash reserves to keep their businesses afloat.

When AmeriHealth announced late last fall that it no longer would contract with the state, people with severe disabilities were disproportionately affected. That’s because about three-quarters of Medicaid members with severe disabilities had chosen AmeriHealth as their MCO. It also explains why Disability Rights Iowa, a federally mandated disability protection and advocacy group, is assuming a more public stance in advance of the 2018 legislative session.

“DRI wants Iowa lawmakers to see faces, not just numbers. We will be sharing your photos and stories with legislators during the 2018 session,” the group says on its website.

The campaign is open not only to those with disabilities on Medicaid, but to caregivers and health care professionals.

Those participating can visit the Disability Rights Iowa website for instructions and a printable sign. The finished product — a photo of the person with the sign and a statement to lawmakers, if the person chooses to include one — should be emailed to IamMedicaidIowa@driowa.org and also may be shared on personal social media accounts with the campaign hashtag #IamMedicaidIowa.

This is a way for people that can’t always easily travel to the Statehouse to let their voices be heard.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 398-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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