Saturday September 22nd, 2018 11:05AM

Sparse details on Iowa plans that bypass Obama's health law

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Josh Crist made the two-hour drive to the Iowa Capitol in April to celebrate Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' signing of a new health care option designed to lower costs by skirting requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The 35-year-old farmer and electrician from Tipton figured the new plans offered through the conservative and politically powerful Iowa Farm Bureau were certain to reduce the more than $2,000 monthly bill he pays for his family's health insurance. He had feared the cost would climb as his existing policy expires, forcing him to buy from an ACA exchange without help from subsidies.

But nearly four months later, Crist is still waiting to see the fine print on what exactly would be covered under the Farm Bureau plans, and he's no longer sure he'll sign up.

"There's a lot of unknowns right now," he said.

The new Iowa option, which Republicans and some Democrats in the Legislature pushed through before knowing many of the details, represents another attempt by GOP-controlled states to chip away at some of the federal rules imposed under the 2010 law championed by former President Barack Obama. It comes as the Trump administration says it's freezing payments under an "Obamacare" program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses.

"Many Iowans faced a choice of going broke or going without health care coverage. And that's really not a real choice," Reynolds' campaign tweeted earlier this month. "That's why we found an Iowa approach to help our farmers and small business owners."

There is no state oversight of the new law, which the Iowa Farm Bureau is offering with assistance from an insurance company. Democrats argue cutting costs can only be achieved by slashing benefits, siphoning young and healthy customers away from the ACA market while increasing the burden for elderly and sicker recipients.

National health care experts have reacted skeptically, arguing it could be a moneymaker for the Farm Bureau but won't help people most in need.

"If you're collecting premiums from people who don't use health care services very much you can make money," said Sabrina Corlette, a health policy research professor at Georgetown University. "It's when you actually have to cover medical services that insurance becomes a less-profitable business."

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said about 26,000 residents quit buying individual policies this year "due to the demoralizing rates faced by Iowa citizens not eligible for subsidies caused by structural defects in the ACA." Some of that group may have found work that offered insurance or joined a small group policy.

Ommen's office estimates only about 600 Iowans continued to pay premiums out of their own pockets last year. Many others likely gave up on buying health insurance altogether, determining it's unaffordable.

Many self-employed Iowans who buy their own insurance are farmers, which is why the Farm Bureau stepped up to offer policies.

Under the law, the Farm Bureau will decide coverage options and prices, pay claims and assume the financial risk. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will process claims and provide access to its network of clinics, doctors and hospitals.

By not technically being labeled insurance, the law allows the Farm Bureau to ignore ACA rules and operate without consumer oversights provided by the Iowa Insurance Division.

The Farm Bureau, a nonprofit with 159,000 members, modeled its plan after a Tennessee law approved in 1993. It was promoted as a way to serve people who can't afford insurance sold through marketplaces established by the ACA.

Wellmark Chief Administrative and Legal Officer Cory Harris rejected arguments that the Farm Bureau policies will provide skimpy coverage.

"Who would buy that? Farm Bureau hasn't gone through all of this to offer a product that the market doesn't want," Harris said.

A Farm Bureau spokeswoman said there are still no specifics to offer about the policies, noting it could be October or November before they offer plan details to members. The open enrollment period for the ACA runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

Sarah Lueck, a health policy expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Iowa's "mystery plan" approach contrasts with other states, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, which have tried to keep premiums stable by compensating insurers that accept high-risk clients.

"How this rolls out, when it rolls out and how many people they're going to try to touch, can have a big impact on the rest of the insurance market," she said.

Reynolds has argued Iowa's insurance market was "robust" before the Affordable Care Act and that the Farm Bureau plans would be similar to some offered years ago.

Iowa had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country back then, although "comprehensive health insurance was unaffordable for many lower to moderate income earners," according to an analysis earlier this year by the state's insurance commissioner.

Now, a big concern for some Iowans is that the new Iowa law allows policies with lifetime caps on coverage, which is prohibited under the ACA.

The Farm Bureau also could require applicants to complete a lengthy health questionnaire, base premium costs on existing conditions or deny coverage to cancer survivors or those with chronic ailments like diabetes. A Tennessee questionnaire, for example, asks whether the applicant in the past seven years has been treated, diagnosed or experienced symptoms of any of nearly 70 medical conditions including varicose veins, high cholesterol, celiac disease, headaches and back pain.

That's troubling to Erin Mobley, a 31-year-old PhD student at the University of Iowa who was diagnosed with a form of cancer when she was 6. While she has been in remission for years, Mobley still visits with multiple doctors to ensure she stays healthy.

"It makes me a little nervous to think what could happen," she said.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, questioned Iowa's decision to give the Farm Bureau so much autonomy in offering health coverage.

"It's like states saying, 'We don't want to offer public schools,'" she said.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services, AP Business - Personal Finance
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Sparse details on Iowa plans that bypass Obama's health law
An Iowa law approved this spring in the Republican-controlled Legislature would allow the conservative and politically powerful Iowa Farm Bureau to offer health plans that skirt requirements of the Affordable Care Act
11:19AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Millions from anonymous donors to influence Kavanaugh fight
Millions of dollars from anonymous donors are helping shape the fight over President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee as Republicans and Democrats prepare for a bruising battle for ideological control of the nation's highest court
11:13AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Royal etiquette for the Trumps' visit: Don't kiss the queen
President Donald Trump is coming to Britain fresh from a confrontational NATO summit that featured stinging criticism of America's closest allies, but he's likely to tone down that stance when he takes tea Friday with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
11:12AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Stormy Daniels charged under seldom-used law
Porn star Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club under a 2007 law introduced by a conservative religious group that some say has seldom been enforced
10:50AM ( 36 minutes ago )
US says all eligible youngest children, families reunited
The Trump administration says all eligible small children separated from their families as a result of its zero-tolerance immigration policy have been reunited with those who brought them to the border
10:48AM ( 38 minutes ago )
NATO insists it's united at end of raucous, divisive summit
At the end of a bewildering, roller-coaster NATO summit, the military alliance's 29 nations somehow pledged continued unity and kept their long commitment to beef up defense spending amid a barrage of biting criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump
10:32AM ( 54 minutes ago )
AP National News
Trump says there 'might be an escalation' between US, Iran
President Donald Trump is forecasting an unspecified "escalation" between the U.S. and Iran following his withdrawal the Iran nuclear deal
10:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
German court: Catalan politician can legally be extradited
A German court has ruled that a prominent Catalan politician can be extradited to Spain on charges of embezzlement, but not rebellion
9:22AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump lands in Great Britain for first UK visit
President Donald Trump has arrived in Great Britain for his first visit as president amid NATO tensions, protests and Brexit turmoil
8:55AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Battle over family separations flares anew in Congress
Congress' fight over President Donald Trump's now abandoned policy of separating migrant families is stirring anew
10:07PM ( 13 hours ago )
Battle over family separations flairs anew in Congress
Congress' fight over President Donald Trump's now abandoned policy of separating migrant families is stirring anew
9:02PM ( 14 hours ago )
Republicans demand interview with ex-FBI lawyer this week
House Republicans have told former FBI lawyer Lisa Page that she must answer questions before two House committees investigating the Justice Department this week
7:18PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
'The Rock' joining group that champions rights for disabled
Dwayne Johnson plays an amputee in his latest movie, and now he's jumping in to help people with disabilities in real life
10:48AM ( 38 minutes ago )
Average US mortgage rates edge up; 30-year at 4.53 percent
Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged higher this week, marking their first increase since early June. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked up to 4.53 percent from 4.52 percent a week earlier.
10:42AM ( 44 minutes ago )
Trade war fears a clear concern of European bank officials
Top officials at the European Central Bank expressed confidence at their last policy meeting that the eurozone economy remains "broadly on track"
10:27AM ( 59 minutes ago )
AP Business
European bank officials caution on trade war impact
Top officials at the European Central Bank expressed confidence at their last policy meeting that the eurozone economy remains "broadly on track"
7:37AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump says US pullout 'no longer necessary'
U.S. President Donald Trump says he probably can withdraw the U.S. from NATO but that such a step is no longer necessary.
6:55AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump to make statement at NATO summit
President Donald Trump plans to make a statement at the NATO summit in Brussels
6:11AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Judge approves revised Weinstein Co. bankruptcy sale plan
A Delaware bankruptcy judge has approved a revised plan for the sale of the Weinstein Co., the studio forced into bankruptcy by the sexual misconduct scandal that brought down Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein
2:36PM ( 20 hours ago )
ECB taking action to reduce bad loans at eurozone banks
The European Central Bank says it's taking further steps to reduce the amount of bad loans carried by banks _ a factor that hindered economic recovery and complicated debate on strengthening the setup of the euro
1:24PM ( 22 hours ago )
The Latest: Dem: New swipe at 'Obamacare' shows court stakes
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says a weekend move by the Trump administration to undercut the Affordable Care Act is another reason for senators to closely scrutinize the president's Supreme Court nominee
3:31PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Financial Services
JM Smucker's search for balance, growth goes on
J.M. Smucker is doing just about everything asked of it in trying to find areas of faster growth, while ditching some of the packaged foods that fewer people seemingly want
5:36PM ( 1 day ago )
US consumer borrowing up $24 billion in May
US consumer borrowing up $24 billion in May, boosted by big increase in credit card borrowing
3:12PM ( 2 days ago )
GOP governor cuts health care to take anti-abortion stand
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is removing $16 million from the state budget that he says goes to Planned Parenthood
6:40PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Business - Personal Finance
Royal etiquette for the Trumps' visit: Don't kiss the queen
President Donald Trump is coming to Britain fresh from a confrontational NATO summit that featured stinging criticism of America's closest allies, but he's likely to tone down that stance when he takes tea Friday with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
11:12AM ( 15 minutes ago )
England, Belgium to play for 3rd place at World Cup
England defender Kyle Walker is finding meaning in the World Cup game no one wants to play
11:08AM ( 18 minutes ago )
FBI agent: My work has never been tainted by political bias
An FBI agent removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team because of derogatory text messages about President Donald Trump is testifying publicly for the first time
11:01AM ( 25 minutes ago )
The Latest: Stormy Daniels charged under seldom-used law
Porn star Stormy Daniels was arrested at an Ohio strip club under a 2007 law introduced by a conservative religious group that some say has seldom been enforced
10:50AM ( 36 minutes ago )
US says all eligible youngest children, families reunited
The Trump administration says all eligible small children separated from their families as a result of its zero-tolerance immigration policy have been reunited with those who brought them to the border
10:48AM ( 38 minutes ago )