House and Senate Democratic legislators today proposed legislation to continue making health care more affordable and accessible to Iowans. The Iowa Legislature’s 2010 Health Care Reform Bill makes immediate improvements and sets the groundwork to use future increases in federal health care funding to benefit Iowans.

It is based on recommendations approved unanimously by the bipartisan Legislative Health Care Coverage Commission. This commission included Democratic and Republican legislators as well as representatives of insurers, health care providers and consumers.

Dr. Dave Carlyle, an Ames family physician, chaired the commission. “Iowa health care providers, insurers and health care consumers were in agreement on the steps required to extend coverage to more Iowans. This legislation reflects our recommendations,” Carlyle said.

“In Iowa, tens of thousands of children and families have already benefited because we have expanded coverage and increased affordability. We have broad public support because Iowans understand that improving access to affordable health care makes our state a better place to live and a more attractive place to do business,” said State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines. “With this legislation, the Legislature will continue to reduce costs, protect and expand patient choice, and work toward assuring quality affordable health care for all Iowans.”

“This legislation allows Iowans to receive primary care closer to home, creates an information exchange to help small businesses and families make smart choices when buying insurance and sets forth an agenda for real help for middle class Iowans who are deeply worried about losing their health care,” said State Representative Mark Smith of Marshalltown.

The leaders of the Iowa House and Senate stressed the importance of federal cooperation.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said: “We are doing our job. Iowa is recognized national for making good choices and spending federal dollars wisely. But we can’t accomplish our goals without a strong active federal partner.”

House Speaker Pat Murphy said: “States are now the focus of federal health reforms. And no matter what happens in Congress, innovative states like Iowa will benefit because we are reaching out to families without health care and families worried about losing their coverage. Every step we take towards solving Iowa’s health care problems lays the groundwork for Iowa’s future economic growth.”

The 2010 Health Care Reform Bill has three main sections:

Regional Provider Network: Allows Iowans in need to receive primary care closer to home
A new Regional Provider Network will be created under the existing IowaCare health plan. This will assist Iowans with incomes of up to 200% of poverty level and uses currently available funds.

Iowa Choice Exchange: Will help Iowans find the right health insurance plan
The new Iowa Choice Exchange is an information clearinghouse that makes it easier for individuals and small business employees to compare insurance plans using transparent, standardized information that includes data on quality.

IowaCare Plus: Will help working and middle class families afford health care
IowaCare Plus is a new plan for people with incomes of 200 to 400% of poverty, contingent on federal funding. Families with incomes of up to 300% will pay subsidized premiums. Families with incomes from 300 to 400% of poverty will purchase plans according to affordability guidelines passed last year.

Helping Rural Hospitals:
When the Iowa Cares program is expanded, rural hospitals will finally be reimbursed for emergency services and other care which is currently uncompensated. This will protect health care facilities and jobs in Iowa’s rural communities.