State official takes heat for comparing Medicaid complaints to gripes about lost luggage

The director of Iowa's Department of Human Services brought Democrats and Republicans together this week -- but in a bad way.

Jerry Foxhoven angered constituents and lawmakers alike after comparing Medicaid patients’ complaints to airline passengers' gripes about losing their luggage.

Foxhoven reportedly made the comment while criticizing an April 2 report from Iowa's ombudsman, the Des Moines Register reported.

The report, released Monday, claimed that disabled Iowans were systematically being denied medical services.

During an interview with Iowa Public Radio, Foxhoven claimed the report made broad generalizations and he defended the state’s privatized Medicaid system.

He said his Department of Human Services takes all complaints seriously, insisting that the number of people denied care pales in comparison with the number of people treated.

“Remember, all you hear is complaints,” Foxhoven said. “You don’t hear all the good stories. And the example I like to use is, I doubt the airlines get very many people calling saying, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know my flight came on time and my luggage was there.'”

“Remember, all you hear is complaints. You don’t hear all the good stories. And the example I like to use is, I doubt the airlines get very many people calling saying, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know my flight came on time and my luggage was there.'”

- Jerry Foxhoven, director, Iowa Department of Human Services

He added that the 225 complaints recorded by the ombudsman's office for 2017 represents only .0003 percent of the Medicaid program’s participants.

Nevertheless, his comments were not well-received.

“I don’t care if .0003 or 10 percent, it’s about the people. It’s about these individual cases,” said state Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant.

Added state Rep. Lisa Hiddens, D-Ames, “I would guess the family of the disabled child who has had to go without a walker for six months would not look highly upon about being equated to luggage.”

Foxhoven did stress that a small number of complaints does not warrant inaction in cases where service have been inadequate.

According to the Register, Iowa’s Medicaid system provides services to a fifth of the state’s population of about 3.1 million.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.