Bringing the Economy Home

Idaho Legislative Committee Votes Unanimously To Introduce Medicaid Expansion Bill

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Rep. John Rusche (D-Lewiston) is a retired physician and former health insurance executive.

The House Health and Welfare Committee this morning voted unanimously to introduce a pair of bills that would expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho and eliminate the state’s catastrophic health care fund.

The Medicaid expansion is a key component of the federal Affordable Care Act. Rep. Tom Loertscher (R-Iona), who presented the bills, says expanding eligibility to those who live at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level is the pragmatic course for Idaho. 

An analysis conducted by consulting group Milliman on behalf of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shows that many whose medical bills are now covered by the state’s catastrophic health care – or CAT – fund would receive Medicaid coverage under an expanded program. That means those costs of care would be covered by federal rather than state dollars, resulting in savings for state and local government.

Rep. John Rusche (D-Lewiston) pointed out during this morning’s hearing that costs aren’t the only consideration. “Our current CAT fund is just reimbursement,” Rusche said. “It is not a health care plan. We get a bill for services that are done usually in the most expensive manner, rather than having good preventative care as part of a health plan.”

Representatives Rusche and Loertscher serve on the CAT board.

Rep. John Vander Woude (R-Nampa) spoke out against expanding Medicaid eligibility. “If we implemented something like this, we’re basically shifting property tax to federal income tax,” he said. “We know the federal government can print all the money they want and bribe us with every dollar they have, but it is a shift. It’s not a savings in cost.”

In recent years, the cost to the state of reimbursing hospitals for indigent care has grown to well over $30 million annually. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said in his State of the State address that he would not seek to expand Medicaid eligibility this session.


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