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Should Idaho Expand Medicaid? St. Luke’s CEO Wants To Know

St. Luke's Health System

St. Luke's CEO David Pate started blogging on health and policy issues in the fall of 2011.

The CEO of Idaho’s largest health system, St. Luke’s, is asking readers of his blog what they think Idaho should do about expanding Medicaid.

Dr. David Pate began his blogging endeavor almost a year ago as a way to reach more of St. Luke’s 10,000 employees spread across six hospitals and 100 clinics in Idaho.

He says so far, it’s been a success.  And he’s recently experimented with informal online polls to better gauge how St. Luke’s employees and the community feel about cornerstones of President Obama’s health care reform law.

Since the Supreme Court upheld the health care law, states now have choices to make on how to implement an online marketplace for purchasing health insurance and whether to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Idaho’s governor hasn’t made up his mind. Instead he’s created two study groups to weigh the state’s options and advise the best route.

Dr. Pate is frustrated with how ideological the health care reform debate has been in Idaho. He believes most people here would prefer a measured approach.

“I don’t like everything about the reform act, but it is the law, and we ought to figure out what to do,” Pate says.

Pate does support the Medicaid expansion and he wants to hear from Idahoans on whether the state should allow more people to enroll in the program.

“I don’t think the people are as polarized as the politicians are,” Pate says.  “It seemed to me the people were willing to be pragmatic about it.”  He’s hopeful his unscientific polls could eventually  influence policy.

A consulting firm hired by the state estimates if Idaho expands Medicaid, about 100,000 more people would become eligible for the low-income health care program.  The federal government will pay for that expansion for the first two years, but after that Idaho will be on the hook for roughly 10 percent of those costs.  But it’s not clear what 10 percent actually costs.

Pate plans to keep his Medicaid survey open until the end of the week.  He says about 60 people have participated so far.  You can find the survey here.


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