Government

Loebsack: Iowa Medicaid is 'disaster'

It 'never should have been privatized,' he says

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack said Monday the impending exit of UnitedHealthcare from Iowa’s Medicaid program is “a disaster” that underscores deeper problems with relying on private insures to manage health care for the poor and disabled.

UnitedHealthcare handles roughly 425,000 of the state’s Medicaid recipients, the largest of three companies that currently participate in the program. The company’s departure was announced Friday by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office, which has blamed UnitedHealthcare for the breakup although the company disputes that.

Loebsack said the situation stands as an example of why Iowa Medicaid “never should’ve been privatized in the first place.” The congressman said he’d like to see the program go back into the state’s hands but doubts Reynolds would agree.

“This is a disaster in many ways,” said Loebsack, whose congressional district covers Iowa City and southeast Iowa. “I mean, we’re talking two-thirds of the people who are on Medicaid. It’s a very bad situation for those folks.”

The congressman also said it’ll be up to the Reynolds administration to ensure those Medicaid patients are able to transition to new providers.

UnitedHealthcare is the second insurance company to leave Iowa Medicaid since the state switched to a private management model about three years ago.

Democrats and Republicans have mostly assembled on opposite sides of the issue, with Democrats calling the switch expensive and potentially dangerous while Republicans say the public program would’ve bankrupted the state if not changed.

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