IowaCare Recipients React to Governor's Healthy Iowa Plan Changes

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa-The Healthy Iowa Plan proposed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad on Monday would cost the state more money and wouldn't cover as many people as expanded Medicaid. But the governor said his plan is stronger in the long term.

IowaCare is set to expire at the end of the year and the governor would need a waiver from the federal department of Health and Human Services to continue the program as Healthy Iowa.

Those currently receiving IowaCare benefits said they don't really know enough details to say "yes" or "no" immediately to the governor's proposal. But a number questioned on Monday did know what they'd like changed in any IowaCare successor plan. And that's the need to drive to University Hospitals in Iowa City (or Broadlawns Hospital in Des Moines for Polk County residents) to receive care.

Tammy Kryger, who came to the Community Health Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids Monday, said the hassle of getting to Iowa City for care when she doesn't have a car is a major stumbling block.

"Getting back and forth to Iowa City is an issue for me. If there was somewhere I had in town to go, it would be to my benefit," Farr said.

Directors of the Community Health Free Clinic looked over the governor's plan. They said it appears to allow for more community care opportunities as opposed to just one or two centralized locations. But the Healthy Iowa Plan would require recipients to contribute to costs based on a sliding scale.

Jean Bjorseth, director of community relations for the clinic, said some people using the services could afford a bit of a co-pay for care. But others would find it a real struggle.

"There are some who just won't be able to afford that. We hear stories about people walking miles to our (free) clinic because they can't afford the price of a city bus," Bjorseth said.

Tracee Farr, another IowaCare recipient at the free clinic, said she'd have to think a bit about a new requirement for co-pays under the governor's proposal.

"It would depend on the amount—whether or not I could work. Yeah, it could be a problem," Farr said.

On average, about 2,000 people a month come to the Community Health Free Clinic for free medical and dental care as well as prescription medicines. The clinic refers about 25 to 40 per month on to Iowa City to treatment under the state's current IowaCare plan.

Darlene Schmidt, clinic CEO, said if the state can find a way to shoulder more of the health care burden for the low income, it would stretch the clinic's contributions and she certainly wouldn't object.
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