Two doctor-lawmakers, Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, and Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, called on the Legislature today to debate Medicaid expansion, potentially saving Idaho taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and providing health coverage to 100,000 poor Idahoans. “By putting it off now, we’re harming the state,” Rusche said. “They’re big numbers,” Schmidt said. “We’re talking in the first six months of delay, $40 million from Idaho.”
The two Democrats, both physicians, acknowleged that they’re in the minority in the GOP-dominated Idaho Legislature, where members already are suffering from “health care fatigue” after extended debate over legislation authorizing a state-based health insurance exchange. Said Rusche, “It really is disappointing that there is not the sense of urgency and the courage to follow through.”
The Legislature plans to adjourn this Friday. Asked if they thought it was worth staying longer to address the Medicaid issue, both said yes. “I think to offer improved health to 100,000 Idahoans, and also to save almost half a billion to taxpayers – yeah, I think I could stay,” Rusche said. Schmidt said, “I haven’t bought a ticket home yet.”
Said Rusche, “We’re paying for every other state now. Your federal taxes aren’t going to drop one iota if we decide to forgo this for Idaho’s citizens.” He added, “I don’t see the political atmosphere getting any better next year,” when every member of the state Legislature will be up for re-election.