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A new poll shows a majority of Iowans support expanding the state’s Medicaid program so that it would cover more low-income residents.

pollchartAccording to the poll, which was conducted by Essman/Research in Des Moines and funded by the American Hospital Association, 56 percent of Iowans support expansion while 32 percent said they are against it.  Specifically, those polled were informed that an estimated 125,000-150,000 low-income adults would be covered under Medicaid expansion in Iowa.  They were then asked, “Would you support the expansion of the Medicaid program in Iowa?”

In response to that question, a majority of adults in every Iowa congressional district supported expansion by a margin of at least 18 points.  And while urban-dwelling Iowans are much more likely to support expansion (64 percent), a majority of rural Iowans (54 percent) also backs the idea.

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes federal funding available to provide adults earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,856 for an individual; $30,657 for a family of four in 2012) with health coverage through Medicaid.  Right now, the only non-disabled Iowa adults eligible for Medicaid coverage are parents at or below 82 percent of the federal poverty level.

The new poll shows Iowa Republicans are split over the question, with 43 percent in support and 45 percent against.  However, when asked if Iowa should expand Medicaid to prevent losing the state’s share of federal funds to other states, far more Republicans support expansion (47 percent) than oppose it (37 percent).  Whether to provide insurance to more needy Iowans or to ensure Iowa gets its share of funding, better than eight out of 10 Democrats support expansion.

“Most Iowans clearly want to expand insurance coverage through the Medicaid program,” said Kirk Norris, president and CEO of the Iowa Hospital Association.  “What’s also clear is that the more Iowans know about the ramifications of either supporting or rejecting this opportunity, the more likely they are to get behind it.”

One benefit of expansion is that more Iowans will receive coverage for mental health care.  According to the survey, more than three out of four Iowans, including 74 percent of Republicans, believe better access to mental health benefits is needed in the state.

“There is broad recognition both in our communities and at the Statehouse that we must improve access to mental health care,” Norris said.  “We all know what’s at risk when that access falls short.  Expanding Medicaid is our best opportunity to give more Iowans the coverage we all agree they need.”

Medicaid expansion would also provide more Iowans with access to preventive health care, such as yearly physicals, immunizations and diagnostic testing.  According to the survey, nine out of 10 residents believe that every Iowan should have access to these benefits.

“Iowans know the importance of routine care and having a primary health care provider,” Norris said.  “When you are uninsured, you don’t have those benefits and depend on the emergency room for your health care.

“As a state, we have no hope of becoming the healthiest place in the nation when so many Iowans have no insurance.  Expanding Medicaid is the opportunity Iowa must accept if we are to reach that goal.”

To gather data for the poll, Essman/Research conducted 502 random telephone surveys in early February with Iowans age 19-64 years old in all 99 counties.  Essman/Research developed the questionnaire and the random sample, collected the survey data, coded the open-ended verbatim responses, analyzed the data and prepared the survey report.  On the total sample of 502 random telephone surveys, at the 95 percent confidence level, the maximum margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent.

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