Government

Fred Hubbell suggests 'hybrid' Medicaid system

Democrat says privatization only getting worse

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell speaks during the Iowa State Democratic Convention at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell speaks during the Iowa State Democratic Convention at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DAVENPORT — Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell on Monday criticized the state’s decision to move its Medicaid program to private management, saying the system is only getting worse.

Hubbell is on a tour of the state aimed at highlighting his priorities. Earlier in the day, he met with educators in Des Moines and mental health professionals in Fairfield.

In Davenport, Hubbell made a stop at the Family Counseling and Psychology Center in Bettendorf, where Kat Griffith, a family psychiatric nurse practitioner, told him about difficulties dealing with the private insurers who manage the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program.

She told of how a co-worker dealt with seven people for over an hour in an attempt to get a single medication approved for a patient. “It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

Former Gov. Terry Branstad shifted the Medicaid program to private management in 2016. Critics say the move has led to chaos for providers and patients.

“Providers aren’t being paid. Providers aren’t being allowed to do their jobs because the (managed care organizations) are overruling them. There’s more and more demand with less and less support,” Hubbell said afterward. “And yet we’re not addressing it with an institutional, fundamental approach from the Legislature and the governor’s office.”

Hubbell has said he would abandon the current system and bring it under “state control,” but he wouldn’t go back to a fee for service.

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He said there are “hybrid models” in other states that are worth examining. He pointed to Connecticut, Colorado and Minnesota as places where some things are being done right.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has defended the move to private management and said the previous system wasn’t sustainable.

Last month she told Iowa Public Radio her administration has been talking with health care providers to understand their frustrations and that negotiations with the managed care companies give the state some influence in getting them addressed.

The Medicaid program covers about 600,000 Iowans. It is jointly funded by the state and federal governments.

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