DES MOINES — With health care options for as many as 70,000 Iowans hanging in the balance, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she has requested a direct line to President Donald Trump.
Meantime, Reynolds said she continues to work with the president’s staff in order to get approval for Iowa’s proposed short-term health insurance plan.
According to a Washington Post report, Trump in August told one of his agency heads to reject Iowa’s stopgap proposal, which was designed as a short-term measure to ease the costs of insurance plans under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
During her weekly press conference Tuesday, Reynolds said she continues to have constructive conversations with Trump administration officials regarding Iowa’s stopgap plan.
The plan is in a mandatory public comment period.
Open enrollment for 2018 plans begins Nov. 1.
“I haven’t spoken directly to the president. I’ve asked for a conversation,” Reynolds said. “We were actually on the phone yesterday, my team was, with Seema Verma (administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) talking about the stopgap proposal and where we’re at, what we need to do. So our indication is they’ve been very receptive, they continue to work with us.”
Under the stopgap plan, Iowa would use federal Affordable Care Act funding to provide financial assistance to individuals based on age and income, and would establish a separate program for individuals with high health care costs.
Roughly 70,000 Iowans purchase insurance through the Affordable Car Act’s marketplace, and roughly 20,000 of them could face costs so high they likely would decline to purchase insurance, the state insurance division has estimated.
State insurance commissioner Doug Ommen said he thinks the stopgap plan, which he designed in partnership with Iowa health insurer Wellmark, would ease the burden of spiking insurance costs for one year.
Even if approved, the stopgap plan could face a legal challenge by individuals or groups who feel it does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Reynolds said her administration attempted to create a proposal that would pass legal scrutiny.
“I’m really, really proud of my team, the commissioner Doug Ommen and Wellmark, for sitting down and coming up with a very innovative and creative solution that really will, I think, help reduce premiums compared to where they’re going with Obamacare,” Reynolds said. “It’s not perfect, but I think it goes a long way in making sure that we can reduce the premiums, make sure that Iowans have access to coverage and that we can step forward in making it affordable for especially farmers, small business owners and single moms.”
Both Ommen and Reynolds have stressed the stopgap plan, even if approved, is just a short-term solution and have implored Congress to pass long-term health care reform.
Text to 911
State officials said Tuesday that by the end of the year every county in Iowa will have emergency call centers that accept text messages to 911.
Currently, 94 of the state’s 113 emergency call centers accept 911 text messages, officials said.
Officials stressed that calling 911 remains the preferred method of emergency communication, but texting can be useful in cases where a call may endanger the individual trying to communicate with emergency responders, or if the individual’s speech has been impaired.
Officials said Iowa was the first state in the nation to accept 911 text messages; a pilot program in Black Hawk County debuted in 2009.