Iowa governor says state is close to Medicaid waiver

Iowa, one of more than two dozen states that refused to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, is apparently close to obtaining a waiver from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide coverage to the state's poor, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, said earlier this week that he expects to obtain a federal waiver in the "very near future," according to the AP. The waiver would allow enrollment of up to 150,000 low-income residents into the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, which would include a narrow network of providers from the University of Iowa's healthcare system. Medicaid dollars would pay for their costs. 

"We are eager to continue our discussions with Iowa to extend Medicaid coverage to more than 100,000 Iowans in a way that protects beneficiaries and allows the state to take advantage of the generous Medicaid funding made possible by the Affordable Care Act," a U.S. Health and Human Services spokesperson told the AP.

Meanwhile, Alaska is also considering its alternatives for Medicaid expansion after Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, decided he would not expand eligibility to about 43,000 low-income residents. The state's Commissioner of Health and Social Services has created a new Medicaid committee to assess the state's healthcare needs and determine what programs could address them.

"We continue to look at those options should you all at the Legislature come back and say 'we want to do a Medicaid option,'" Commissioner Bill Streur told the House Finance Committee's subcommittee during a recent hearing. Streur suggested that the state could craft some program in time for next year, according to the Alaska Dispatch. He added that the federal government is "less stringent and more willing to talk" about a potential waiver.

Although the federal government discourages radical proposals, such as hospitals purchasing insurance for its poorest patients through the states' insurance exchanges, it has granted waivers to Arkansas and other states desiring more flexibility in initiating Medicaid expansion.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- here's the Alaska Dispatch article

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