Government

Reynolds says she's making Medicaid better

Vows to 'up the penalties' for late payments if needed

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to supporters during a stop at the Iowa GOP Victory Office in Hiawatha in August. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to supporters during a stop at the Iowa GOP Victory Office in Hiawatha in August. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Gov. Kim Reynolds said she has heard enough.

“I’m not going to continue to travel around this state and have doctors and providers who are providing these services telling me they are not getting paid in a timely manner,” the governor said about a persistent complaint under the state’s privatized Medicaid program, which she supports. “It’s unacceptable.”

The Reynolds administration put penalties into contracts with managed-care companies that oversee the $5 billion program serving more than 600,000 Iowans. If she continues to hear from providers that they aren’t being paid on time, “we’ll up the penalties.”

“My priority is to make sure I can look families in the eyes and assure them that we’re going to have a system in place for their loved one long after they are gone,” the Osceola Republican said Monday at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary Club.

There’s work to be done to make that a reality, Reynolds said, but added she’s confident the changes she’s made since becoming governor in May 2017 are putting privatized Medicaid on the right track.

Reynolds hasn’t convinced her Democratic challenger in the Nov. 6 election, retired Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell, that two years after transitioning to managed care the program meets that goal.

“Medicaid privatization is an absolute disaster,” were the first words out of his mouth at a Monday afternoon meeting with The Gazette’s Editorial Board.

What he continues to hear from Iowans is that it was a “big mistake to take the entire Medicaid population and all of the sudden move them over to for-profit, out-of-state companies.”

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That happened at the expense of children, the elderly and disabled who receive Medicaid benefits “and, it looks like, our taxpayers,” Hubbell said.

Reynolds rejects his call for bringing at least part of the program back under state management.

“That’s an easy thing to say. That’s telling people what they want to hear,” she said about his criticism. “That’s the kind of talk that happens in an election.”

The transition to managed care wasn’t rolled out correctly, Reynolds said, but she defended the change as necessary to make it sustainable.

“This isn’t a trial. This isn’t something new,” she said, pointing out that 39 other states have taken similar steps.

Hubbell noted that the only one of them that handles Medicaid like Iowa is Kansas, “and its program is a disaster.”

The former director of the Kansas program, Mike Randol, was hired to oversee Iowa’s.

Reynolds is confident in the changes being made, including penalties for late payments, as well as legislative oversight and two years’ worth of experience to base decisions on.

“When we started, it was based on projections,” she said. “We’re fixing it based on actual experience.”

But Medicaid needs to be made more efficient, Reynolds said. “We’re never done,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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