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Evaluation of the Iowa Wellness Plan (IWP): Member Experiences in 2016

The findings in this report represent survey responses about the health care experiences of Iowa Wellness Plan (IWP) members two years post implementation. Since the last survey report, two events occurred that impacted the structure and administration of the IWP and subsequently could have had an effect on IWP members’ experiences:

  • The Marketplace Choice Plan (MPC) was no longer an option for the Medicaid expansion population because both of the qualified health plan choices within the MPC dropped out of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Thus, the two original Medicaid expansion populations – adults from 0-100% FPL in the Wellness Plan (the plan administered by the state Medicaid program) and adults from 101 – 133% FPL in the Marketplace Choice plan merged into one, the Iowa Wellness Plan (IWP). 
  • Almost all Medicaid members (including IWP members) were transitioned to a private Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) which managed and administered their health care coverage.  

Key Characteristics of the IWP population

Infographic showing that IWP population is older, more likely to be male, less physically health, more functionally limited than traditional Medicaid population, and that the majority were employed.

Key Takeaways

  • The Medicaid expansion in Iowa, the IWP, resulted in more adults having health insurance – In the first year of IWP, 30% of those surveyed did not have health insurance at all in the previous year compared to 2% reporting the same now
  • IWP member experiences varied with regard to obtaining prior authorization from their MCO to get care, tests, or treatment; around 30% of IWP members reporting it ‘very easy’ to get prior authorization from their MCO. However, another 30% reported that it was ‘somewhat or very hard’ to get the needed authorization for care.
  • Continuity with a personal doctor after the transition to MCO management was variable –
    • Continuity - over half (58%) of IWP member reported having the same personal doctor before and after the MCO management transition
    • Discontinuity - around 20% reported that, after enrollment in an MCO, they had a different personal doctor than before enrollment
    • Others gained a personal doctor – around 20% reported not having a personal doctor at all before enrolling in an MCO 
  • Almost three-quarters (72%)of IWP members reported a need for prescription medicine, over one-third(38%) reported a need for specialist care, and around one-quarter (22%)reported a need for treatment for a mental or emotional health problem
  • Unmet need for prescription medicine was reported by 17% of IWP members; unmet need for other services was relatively low (6% preventive care, 7% specialist care, 7% mental health care)

Potential for Action

Infographic showing smoking cessation, access to transportation, and promoting help resources as areas that could help members
Bentler, S. E., McInroy, B., Heeren, T., Momany, E., & Damiano, P. Evaluation of the Iowa Wellness Plan (IWP): Member Experiences in 2016. : University of Iowa Public Policy Center.