Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, proposed two additions to the “intent language” in the Medicaid budget, one to direct it to develop and report on strategies to keep patients from unnecessarily using the emergency room, and another to ask the division to report on its percentage of the state general fund budget and whether that rises. Both were voted down, as other JFAC members said they support the aim of reducing emergency room use, but felt that was a policy issue rather than a budget issue and one that the division already is addressing; and that information on percentage of budget already is widely available to JFAC.
“To burden the department with having to do this task seems inappropriate to me when we have that information and can find it readily,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, “and we do actually seek to articulate every year the concerns that we have on this specific growth.”
Thayn, although outvoted 7-11 and 5-13, thanked the committee for allowing him to make the proposals. “This brings me the opportunity to bring up this important issue,” he said. “I imagine quite a few people in this room knew how much the Department of Health & Welfare was growing.” But he said many in the public do not. “At some time we have to raise this to the level where people are aware of what the issue really is. We really can’t control the cost of Medicaid until we control the cost of medicine. … There is a point here. We have to deal with this issue.”