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Hill: ‘We’ve got it backwards’ by not covering poorer patients

Legislative leaders from both parties sparred over Medicaid expansion this morning. Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “I think there need to be some changes to the law at the federal level, and that’s probably not going to happen in the next 10 days.” He said it’s “kind of sad” that the system Idaho ended up with, as a result of court decisions, is one in which lower-middle-income people get aid to buy health insurance, but the poorest, those just above the income level to qualify for Medicaid, don’t. “We’ve got it backwards,” Hill said. “We need to get things fixed. And I don’t know if expanding Medicaid right now at the state level is going to fix anything.”

The U.S. Supreme Court made the expansion – to cover the lower-income population – optional for states. “We’ve got to come up with some solutions, because the way it is now, it is not good, it is not fair, it is not right,” Hill declared. It doesn’t, he said, “help those who really need the help.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, responded, “I submit that the reason it’s unfair is because we’re choosing to make it unfair.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, questioned why the state doesn’t consider an interim or partial move to provide coverage for that population while it works out its issues with Medicaid; both Hill and House Speaker Scott Bedke said they’d consider that, but said it likely would require a waiver from the federal government. Bedke said, “This is a difficult issue, and my friends on the other side of the aisle are going to keep our feet to the fire on this issue and we welcome that. I just don't know what the answer is moving forward.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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