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Reynolds on Medicaid Privatization: “I Never Said It Was Perfect.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Joyce Russell/IPR
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Gov. Reynolds today expressed confidence in Iowa’s privately-managed health care program for the poor and disabled, even as thousands of Medicaid patients are being pulled out of the new system.     

One of three for-profit companies managing the program, AmeriHealth Caritas, has dropped out.   Another company, AmeriGroup, can’t absorb some of AmeriHealth’s 215,000 patients.

As a result, at least 9,000 patients are going back to the traditional state-run Medicaid program, at least until AmeriGroup can build up capacity. 

Reynolds says managers are trying to make the transfer as seamless as possible.

“Most of the preauthorization and the plans have been forwarded to  the provider that they’re moving to,” Reynolds said   “So we're doing everything we can to minimize disruption.”   

Reynolds was asked if some of the 600,000 Iowans in the Medicaid program might be falling through the cracks with the changes.

“This is 9000 Iowans we're talking about,” Reynolds said.  “We’re going to continue to do the due diligence.”    

Backers of Medicaid privatization said the new system would increase choice for patients and competition for providers, and Reynolds says her administration is doing everything they can to achieve that.    

She says AmeriGroup is ramping up to take on more clients, and the state has plans to hire another private firm.    

She said she has no intention of abandoning Medicaid privatization.   

“I’ve never said it was perfect," she said. "I’m willing to put the time and the effort into making sure that Iowans get the care that they deserve in a managed and coordinated and more modern delivery system.

“I’m not going back,” she added.

Iowa Democrats have opposed privatizing the Medicaid program.   The Iowa Democratic Party chairman has called the system "ReynoldsCare.”

Copyright 2017 Iowa Public Radio

Joyce Russell is a correspondent based at the Iowa Statehouse. Joyce has been covering the Iowa Statehouse since shortly after joining the news staff at WOI Radio in 1988. Her earlier broadcasting experience included news reporting at commercial stations in Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joyce’s reports can be heard on National Public Radio and American Public Media programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace. She covered the last six Iowa caucus campaigns and interviewed numerous candidates for president, including some who went on to attain the highest office in the land.