The House has voted 62-6 in favor of HB 395, to restore non-emergency adult dental coverage to poor disabled people on Medicaid, which was eliminated in 2011. Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a physician, said in 2011, “We were trying to respond to a sharp drop in revenue, and HB 260 cut or eliminated many medical services. But some of those services were important in overall health, and eliminating them has proven to have an overall cost.” Emergency room costs for dental-related conditions more than doubled after the coverage was cut; at an earlier committee hearing, Medicaid recipients testified about lost teeth, painful abscesses and infections, and more, all because they couldn’t afford routine dental checkups, fillings and the like.
Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow, told the House, “I believe that restoring dental benefits will make a significant difference in the lives of the people in my district as well as across the state, as well as being more cost-effective.”
Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, asked Rusche, “You said we cut this benefit because of the financial situation at that time. How much less is the national deficit today than it was then?” House Speaker Scott Bedke warned Shepherd that the question wasn’t germane to the bill. Shepherd then spoke against the bill. “I think it’s a wonderful idea, and in normal times, I probably could vote for it, but I think the more serious problem … is the future of our country when the debt has reached the limit it’s reached. So I think we should vote no.”
Rusche said, “I would submit that the action on this bill will not change the federal debt, nor will it change anybody’s taxes in Idaho. What we do have the opportunity to do, though, is to improve the health of Idahoans, and lower our costs by providing appropriate medical services for the disabled in Idaho who currently qualify for Medicaid. I think it’s a win-win-win.” The bill passed on a 62-6 vote and now moves to the Senate side. Those voting no were Reps. Shepherd, Sims, Barbieri, Barrett, Harris and McMillan.