Bringing the Economy Home

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter Reiterates Wish To Hold Off On Expanding Medicaid Eligibility

Aaron Kunz / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. Butch Otter talked with reporters at the Associated Press legislative preview, Jan. 4, 2013.

“There’s no definite decision on not expanding Medicaid, yet.”

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter offered that equivocal statement in a press conference marking the close of the 2013 legislative session. He’s determined, he said, to find ways to inject more personal accountability into Idaho’s Medicaid system.

“We’ll get eight months and some change in order to continue to study that,” Otter said. “I will try to keep, to the extent that I can, all of the legislators in the state aware of our progress toward the first of next January.”

The federal Affordable Care Act encourages states to expand Medicaid eligibility and allow people who live at or below 138 percent of the poverty line to enroll in the entitlement program. Currently in Idaho, a single adult earns too much to qualify for Medicaid if he earns more than $205 a month. If access expands, that cut-off point would rise to just over $1,320 per month. 

Idaho counties and the state general fund will forgo millions of dollars in savings if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid eligibility in the 2014 state fiscal year. Barring a special session of the Idaho Legislature, however, state leaders won’t come to a decision on the issue before lawmakers reconvene in Boise next year.

StateImpact this week reported on the growth in spending on mental health by county indigent services offices around the state, a cost that analysts believe would be offset by expanding Medicaid access.

Methods of state-level record-keeping related to that spending have varied over the last decade, making it difficult to pinpoint the magnitude of the increase. However, Ada County’s spending to keep people in involuntary custody for mental health reasons nearly quadrupled between 2008 and 2012, rising to more than $2.2 million.


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