Healthcare debate along party lines

The question whether to expand Medicaid in the state or to go with a whole new plan has legislators in Des Moines divided along party lines.

Democrats feel more Iowans can be served by expansion of Medicaid while Republicans feel a plan by Gov. Terry Branstad called Healthy Iowa is the way to go.

Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, is a lead sponsor of the Medicaid expansion bill.

“I continue to feel that’s the direction we need to go,” Smith said.

Smith said Medicaid expansion can serve an additional 150,000 Iowans while Branstad’s plan serves an additional 89,000 from the current population being served.

“We have more comprehensive care,” Smith said.

Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Garwin, feels the Healthy Iowa plan is a much more modern approach to healthcare.

“Medicaid is a reactive type of healthcare and there’s nothing in it for preventative care,” Fisher said. “The governor’s plan calls for preventative care.”

Fisher also feels that serving more Iowans would lead to more state funds being used, which is not always a good thing. He said the Healthy Iowa plans has less reliance on federal dollars, which leads to less uncertainty.

“Iowa has got more control in the Healthy Iowa plan,” Fisher said. “I think we need to be a little more cost-conscientious.”

A public hearing on the matter was held at the statehouse on Tuesday.

“There were some strong opinions on the issue,” Smith said.

Smith said the governor’s plan is in bill form and could be up for debate in the House soon.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed its Medicaid expansion package Thursday.

“I think this plan is important and works the best for taxpayers,” said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center.

“This plans works with tax dollars already there that if we don’t take they will give to other states,” said Sodders.

Sodders feels the governor’s plan is too costly and not expansive enough.

“It simply doesn’t cover enough people,” he said.

Sodders feels a modification of Branstad’s plan could be in place as a back-up plan for the state if the federal government doesn’t live up to its end of the bargain on Medicaid expansion option.