Iowa Gov. Branstad in a major push for health proposal -
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Iowa Gov. Branstad in a major push for health proposal

DES MOINES (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad is seeking to meet with federal officials in Washington to urge them to approve Iowa's proposal to expand low-income health care, an aide said Wednesday.

Health care policy adviser Michael Bousselot said the administration has sought meetings with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and with White House officials.

He said that plans for those meetings were being finalized for early next week when Bran­stad will be in Washington.

The clock is ticking for the approval, as the new health care marketplaces open for enrollment Oct. 1.

Bousselot said state officials are still negotiating some plan details but expect to get the formal sign-off by then.

Iowa lawmakers in May approved legislation that accepts federal dollars offered to states that expand Medicaid to more individuals under the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. The plan would cover an estimated 150,000 low-income Iowans who are not on the current Medicaid plan.

Under the Iowa plan, those with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty line would go on a new state-run health plan with benefits similar to those offered to state workers.

People with incomes from 101 percent to 138 percent of the poverty line would get private health coverage on the new health care marketplaces. Their premiums would be paid for with the federal dollars.

The state would be able to opt out of the coverage responsibilities if the federal government doesn't honor the financial commitment. And some participants would have to meet health requirements, such as annual physicals, or face financial penalties.

“The Legislature and the governor came together in a bipartisan fashion to craft a solution for health care,” Bous­selot said. “The solution isn't exactly what Obamacare looks like, but it's a solution that really is a bipartisan plan that uniquely fits Iowa.”

Branstad submitted the proposal to federal authorities last month. In a letter to Sebelius, Branstad noted another reason the state doesn't want any delay: Some of those 150,000 people are on a limited-benefit state health plan that is set to expire by the end of the year.

Without the new program in place, they could lose coverage.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Iowa approach is similar to the plan in Arkansas, which is seeking to use federal money to purchase private insurance. Arkansas also is waiting on approval.

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