DAVENPORT -- The federal official that President Donald Trump reportedly directed to reject Iowa's stopgap insurance plan referred to the matter as "a lot of Washington gossip," U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said late Tuesday.
Still, it wasn't clear if the official specifically denied the president wanted the plan killed.
Ernst was the keynote speaker at the Scott County Republican Party's fall fundraising dinner in Bettendorf on Tuesday evening, and after the event she took questions from reporters, including some about the state's attempt to get an Affordable Care Act waiver from the Trump administration.
Last week, the Washington Post, citing people it did not identify, reported that the president read an article about Iowa's request in August and then contacted Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and made it clear the plan was to be rejected.
Iowa officials said after the Post report that they still believe the request is being considered. Sen. Chuck Grassley's office reiterated that Wednesday. But the report that the president intervened gained widespread attention, with critics charging it was the latest evidence of Trump's attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
Ernst said Tuesday she spoke with Verma about the report. "I asked her about that and the way she said, 'it was a lot of Washington gossip,'" Ernst said.
Asked if Verma specifically confirmed the report, Ernst said: "She said it was a lot of Washington gossip." A request to the White House for comment on the matter last week was not answered.
Iowa's insurance division formally submitted its waiver request in August and last month got a "letter of completeness" from the administration, which state officials portrayed as a step forward.
Public comments are being taken on Iowa's request until Oct. 19, and Ernst said a decision could come by the end of the month.
Iowa officials have been pushing for a decision on the plan, which they say is a temporary fix, because open enrollment begins Nov. 1.
Medica, an insurer based in Minnesota, is the only company that has said it will sell coverage in Iowa's ACA marketplace next year. However, it has asked for an average premium increase of 56 percent, which state officials say will drive people to drop coverage.
The state's request is to create a single, standardized insurance plan which would then be marketed by insurers who choose to participate. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state's largest insurer, has agreed to take part if the plan is approved.
The plan also requests that the federal government approve use of Affordable Care Act funding to pay for a revamped set of premium tax credits and a reinsurance program to help with high cost customers.