2 lawmakers credited for role in Iowa health deal

DES MOINES – After months of partisan bickering seemed to have stalled negotiations on how to provide low-income health care in Iowa, two no-nonsense lawmakers from northern Iowa are credited with figuring out a compromise.

Democratic Sen. Amanda Ragan, of Mason City, and Republican House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, of Clear Lake, led talks to develop the health care plan that won passage in the Legislature before lawmakers adjourned Thursday. The last-minute deal was viewed as a major breakthrough because there had been much speculation that the Legislature would have to return in a special session to deal with the contentious issue.

Both said their longstanding relationship helped pave the way. Less than a week before adjournment, they quietly began seeking a middle ground between the Senate Democrats’ proposal to expand Medicaid and the alternate plan from House Republicans and Gov. Terry Branstad to expand an existing health program instead.

“I ventured over and said how can we do what we do and get this done,” Ragan said. “We have a relationship. We have a trust relationship. So that didn’t have to be established.”

The middle ground? The state will seek the federal funding provided to states that expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.