DES MOINES — Two Democratic senators Wednesday called upon Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to extend the signup period for Medicaid recipients so they could choose between one of two remaining state-contracted managed care organizations or enroll in a state-run fee-for-service option for the coming year.
In a joint letter to the governor, Sens. Amanda Ragan of Mason City and Liz Mathis of Hiawatha requested that members who had been covered by AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa before the company decided to withdraw as a private Medicaid managed-care organization be given an additional 30 days to select a new provider.
“We are writing to you today to express our grave concerns about Medicaid. The loss of AmeriHealth Caritas and the inability of Amerigroup to take new members leaves too many Iowans without choice,” Ragan and Mathis wrote.
“In the name of fairness and choice, we are requesting that you grant an additional 30 days for former AmeriHealth members to choose either United” — UnitedHealthcare of the River Valley — “or the fee-for-service system.”
The change affects more than 10,000 Iowans, according to Iowa Department of Human Services figures.
Reynolds spokeswoman Brenna Smith did not address the requested extension directly in responding to the senators.
”Iowa Medicaid has developed a transition plan to ensure members will continue to receive quality care as health plan options change. Iowa Medicaid will be working closely with, and monitoring, patients as they transition,” Smith said in a statement.
“Medicaid modernization is a proactive, patient-centered approach to modernizing Iowa’s Medicaid program. Recently, JD Power ranked Iowa’s Medicaid program as second highest in the nation in patient satisfaction. More than 55 million Medicaid patients are enrolled in managed-care health plans in 39 states and Washington, D.C.,” Smith added. “Gov. Reynolds is committed to improving quality and access to care, promoting accountability for patient outcomes and creating a more predictable and sustainable Medicaid budget.”
The senators’ letter follows this week’s announcement by state Department of Human Services officials that Medicaid beneficiaries who had chosen Amerigroup Iowa as their 2018 managed-care organization instead will be covered by a state program. That decision came after Amerigroup earlier this month said it couldn’t take additional beneficiaries.
The DHS transitionary plan was precipitated by a series of developments that began when AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa — one of Iowa’s original three managed-care organizations and the Medicaid insurer with the largest concentration of the state’s special-needs population — said it would withdraw from the Medicaid program.
The program covers one in four Iowans.
“The loss of AmeriHealth Caritas and the inability of Amerigroup to take new members leaves too many Iowans without choice,” Ragan and Mathis wrote.
They also noted that federal law requires that Medicaid beneficiaries must have a choice of managed-care plans.
The state and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid last week told a Lee Enterprises reporter a “temporary” suspension to the provider-choice rule is not necessary.