Medicaid privatization will likely have low impact on students


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Thomas Nelson

The state of Iowa is moving forward with the “modernization” of Medicaid in the state, effective April 1, but the effect on students should be minimal.

The plan allows for three private health care providers to manage the care of those with low incomes and those who are disabled. Gov. Terry Branstad has argued the plan will save the state money, while Democrats have said the move would put low-income Iowans at risk of worse care.

The plan will likely not have much of an impact on ISU students.

“It’s only going to effect students that were on Medicaid,” said state Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames.

Even students who were on Medicaid shouldn’t have problems because the university offers health insurance to students who are taking at least five credit hours, which they are free to switch to. 

The SSHIP plan, or the Students and Scholar’s Health Insurance Program, offered by Iowa State, offers health coverage for ISU students.

“Six thousand or so students are signed for insurance with the university,” said Edward Hollands, director of benefits with University Human Resources.

The SSHIP plan isn’t the only health insurance program for students. Iowa’s 509A13B law allows students to continue to be covered by their parents until the age of 25. 

Mack Shelley, university professor of political science, said the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, might also benefit students

Passed in 2010, the ACA allows for full-time college students to remain on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.

The plan to privatize or “modernize” Medicaid was delayed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The original implementation date was set for Jan. 1, but CMS said Iowa was moving too fast. 

Currently, three Iowa groups will provide Iowa Medicaid, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Those groups are the IA Health Link, Medicaid Fee-for-Service and hawk-i.

Some students can still be affected by the change in Medicaid, but those students still have the option to use the SSHIP program at Iowa State if they can’t be covered by their parents’ insurance.

Opponents of the new measure argue that privatization could lead to the three companies holding an oligopoly over prices, Shelley said.

The Iowa Senate also voted 32-18 on an oversight bill for the new Medicaid plan Wednesday.

“The success or failure of Medicaid managed care in Iowa depends on proper strategic planning and strong oversight, and the incorporation of the core values, principles, and goals of the strategic plan into Medicaid managed care contractual obligations,” according to the bill, Senate File 2213.

State Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, voted for the oversight bill. In an earlier interview with the Daily before the start of the legislative session, Quirmbach said he was concerned about the entire process of privatizing Medicaid.