The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

October 21, 2013

Iowa insurance enrollments begin trickling in

(Continued)

Many residents have expressed interest in a new low-income health program the state is launching as part of the overhaul. About 400 people have applied through the state for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, which would use federal funding to cover up to 150,000 people who don't qualify for traditional Medicaid. The state will start processing those applications soon, said Amy McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Human Services.

McCoy said the federal government has not reported to the state if additional people have applied through the federal website.

The state needs a waiver from the federal government to get additional Medicaid dollars for this program. The waiver hasn't been granted, but Gov. Terry Branstad remains optimistic that it will happen.

Emma Sandoe, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, said the government is now reviewing the waiver application. She declined to talk specifically about the process.

Under the Iowa plan, which was submitted to the federal government last month, those with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty line — under about $24,000 annually for a family of four — would go on a new state-run health plan with benefits similar to those offered to state workers. People with incomes from 101 to 138 percent of poverty — between about $24,000 and $32,000 annually for a family of four— would get private health plans on the new health care exchanges; those premiums would be paid for with the federal dollars.

Starting in 2015, some participants could be subject to small monthly premiums, but those could be waived if they complete certain health goals or in cases of hardship. If approved, the new program would start coverage Jan. 1.

Other pieces of the health care rollout are still coming together in Iowa. Three medical organizations received federal grants to hire people in Iowa to serve as navigators, who are people specially trained to help consumers find their way through the new health insurance system. All of the organizations — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa and Genesis Health System — said people are still in the process of completing a training and certification process.

"I wish it could have been a week ago. I think we're getting close," said Denise Hotopp, vice president of organizational integrity for Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, which has hired four fulltime navigators.

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