DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad’s Iowa Health and Wellness Plan still doesn’t have federal approval less than a month before plans are supposed to go into effect.
Two months ago, administration officials said that although they hoped for a quick resolution to concerns the federal Department of Health and Human Services has with the state’s waiver request, they were looking toward Dec. 1 as when they would re-evaluate options if no waiver was forthcoming.
Monday, Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht played that down.
“We are not re-evaluating and remain committed to the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan,” Albrecht wrote in an e-mail. “We need this waiver approved soon.”
The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is the state-run alternative to the federal Affordable Care Act. It requires federal officials to sign off on differences between the federal program and the state proposal before the state is allowed to operate it.
One of the differences is a requirement in the state plan that some individuals who make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty rate — or roughly $23,500 annually for a family of four — would have to pay a premium for health coverage.
The Iowa plan allows people to reduce their premiums if they can prove they have adopted preventative health measures, such as quitting smoking.
Albrecht would not elaborate on the sticking points in the negotiations with federal officials, which he indicated were “ongoing.”
“Nothing is finalized,” he wrote. “Iowa submitted the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan based on broad bi-partisan support months ago. Since that time, Iowa has had tremendous interest in our innovative plan from Iowans, with more than 50,000 Iowans having signed up already. Gov. Branstad and the Iowa Department of Human Services have worked with federal officials in the time leading up to the submission of our innovative waivers and since submission seeking federal approval of our bi-partisan plan.”
The Iowa Health and Wellness covers Iowans age 19-64 with incomes up to and including 133 percent of the federal poverty level. It’s designed to take the place of the IowaCare program, which expires at the end of this month.