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Critics: Iowa's Stopgap Insurance Plan Would Hurt Low-Income, Seniors

When insurance provider Medica signaled it was likely to leave the Iowa individual health insurance market, the state was put in a tough position.(Steve Buissinne/Pixabay)
When insurance provider Medica signaled it was likely to leave the Iowa individual health insurance market, the state was put in a tough position.(Steve Buissinne/Pixabay)
August 25, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – A stopgap insurance plan presented this week to federal officials by Iowa's insurance commissioner needs to be re-worked to better protect low-income and older Iowans, according to the Child & Family Policy Center.

Mary Nelle Trefz, a health policy associate with the center, notes that the impetus for creating the plan was the expected exit of health insurer Medica from the Iowa independent health insurance market.

"So, I think this came out of the 'Oh no, we don't have any potential insurance carriers, what can we do in this emergency?' situation," she states.

Medica has since committed to staying in the market for 2018.

The stopgap plan adjusts Affordable Care Act subsidies in an effort to avoid premium spikes for Iowans who make slightly too much money to qualify for assistance.

Trefz says the state needs to go back to the drawing board in light of the Medica commitment because otherwise there will be harmful side effects focused disproportionately on low-income and older people.

Trefz adds that any stopgap measures presented to the federal government have to address what are known as the "Four Guardrails of Coverage" – comparable levels of coverage, number of individuals covered, affordability and deficit neutrality.

Trefz says the state's waiver request was well-intentioned, but the facts remain.

"The intent of this measure is really to provide more assistance to younger individuals and those with higher incomes and provide less assistance to older adults with lower incomes," she states.

Trefz suggests a variety of palatable adjustments that could be made to the state plan, such as focusing marketing efforts on attracting more younger and healthy people to the market and streamlining the signup process to make it as simple as possible to join.

Kevin Patrick Allen/Scott Herron, Public News Service - IA