Three Senate Republicans Break With Party Over Medicaid Vote

Feb 11, 2016

Three State Senate Republicans crossed party lines in voting to pass a bill that would stop the privatization of Iowa's Medicaid system. 

State Sen. David Johnson of Osceola County is the ranking Republican on the Human Services Committee. He says Iowa is trying to do too much too fast and, as a result, healthcare providers and vulnerable people are getting dumped on.

“We need to put a dagger in this,” says Johnson. “It’s moving too fast, and we can come up with a better plan. I’m absolutely convinced of that."

Johnson was joined by GOP Sens. Jack Chapman of Dallas County and Tom Shipley of Adams County.

Opponents of efforts to stop privatization say Iowa has already committed to the path of managed care, in part by planning to spend privatization’s projected savings in other areas. Some Senate Republicans, like Jason Schultz of Crawford County, also say Democratic lawmakers are proposing a budget this year that factors in those savings.  

"Perchance you’re not planning on this bill going all the way through. Maybe this is just for the cameras? Maybe this is just to tell people back home you’re fighting for them, even though you’ve already signed onto plan yourself?" says Schultz. "I appeal to you for leadership, for ownership."

Democrats say last year’s bill was worded in such a way that many did not believe they were voting to privatize Iowa’s entire Medicaid program. 

"Leadership is also about stopping a process that is flawed, and having the guts to do it before we are saddled with a delivery system that is fraught with problems," says Sen. Liz Mathis of Linn County. 

The legislation is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled House. Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake says there's no point in holding a floor debate on the Senate bill since Gov. Terry Branstad will issue a veto.