Iowa wrong to privatize Medicaid

I wish Iowa had never privatized Medicaid. Though not personally involved, I came close.

When Mom died last year, her remaining savings would have covered nursing home care for six more months. I worried constantly about having to apply for Medicaid on her behalf. So the Jan. 14 Gazette story on nursing homes and Medicaid touched me (“Iowa nursing homes feeling budget pinch”).

The private insurers routinely pay providers like nursing homes late, even though the government pays insurers a month early. They delay paying longer by denying claims — knowing they’ll lose on appeal. Meanwhile to meet payroll, nursing homes must borrow and eventually raise fees for people paying their own way.

That just makes folk like Mom need Medicaid sooner. At least state administration of the program didn’t make demand for Medicaid snowball. This situation is not sustainable for providers or any of Iowa’s elderly.

Therefore, our legislature must regulate these private insurers. Fine them heavily for every late Medicaid payment over a reasonable number, and likewise for every appeal they lose. Increase fine sizes with higher numbers of late and frivolously denied payments. Let affected providers borrow this revenue interest-free. Also, lawmakers, protect Medicaid patients from insurers greedily making them change to less effective medications.

I wish Terry Branstad had never subjected our people to such harms inflicted for the sake of profit. If regulation leaves private insurers wanting out, the state can administer Medicaid again. Privatized or not, Medicaid must be removed from incentives to delay payments or deny needed care. People before profit.

Charlotte Joy Martin

Cedar Rapids

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