Bringing the Economy Home

Why 70,000 People Will Join Idaho’s Medicaid Rolls In 2014

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

JFAC co-chairs Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) and Maxine Bell (R-Jerome).

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare estimates that 70,340 people will join Idaho’s Medicaid rolls next year, department chief Richard Armstrong told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee today.

This isn’t news to people who have watched Idaho wrestle with the Affordable Care Act; a November report from independent consulting group Milliman projected the enrollment growth.  However, it’s not something we have detailed here on the StateImpact site.

Half of those 70,000 people are currently eligible for Medicaid, but not enrolled.  They’re what’s referred to as the “woodwork group,” as in “the group that will come out of the woodwork” once the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate goes into effect in 2014.

The other 35,000 people will become eligible due to a new definition of income — called Modified Adjusted Gross Income, or MAGI — that comes into place under the health care law.

The federal government will pay approximately 70 percent of the cost of Medicaid coverage for the woodwork group, the same share of the cost it covers for Idaho’s existing Medicaid recipients.  The Department of Health and Welfare estimates the cost to the state at a little more than $5 million dollars for the first six months of 2014.

For the second group — those who will become eligible — the state doesn’t yet have a cost estimate, says Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan.

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The optional expansion of Idaho’s Medicaid system, which would cover people whose incomes fall at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, would extend Medicaid coverage to approximately 80,000 more Idahoans.  Milliman, the consulting group, estimates the optional expansion would save the state and counties $6 million over a 10-year period.

As StateImpact has reported, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in his State of the State address that Idaho lawmakers should not take up the optional expansion this legislative session.


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