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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Turning point for people with mental illness in Idaho’

Ian James Bott was the first to testify at the listening session on Health & Welfare issues. A 30-year-old college student with autism, he spoke of how he had to pay out of pocket for extensive dental work, including a bridge. “I’m hoping that people who need dental coverage can help get it rectified and resolved,” he said. “I thank you all for being here. … I hope that there will be resolving help for wanting to have the dental be eventually restored fully.”

Idaho cut adult non-emergency dental coverage from Medicaid in 2012 to save money, but instead, emergency room costs have ballooned; this year, the state Department of Health & Welfare is requesting that the coverage be restored.

House Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, told Bott, “There is legislation making its way through the Legislature at this time that will restore dental benefits to the pre-HB 260 effort. That’s going through the process, but I’m encouraged by that, and we should get that accomplished for you.”

Kathy Mercer of Meridian, a state board member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and parent of a child with mental illness, told the lawmakers, “We are at a crossroad. This legislative session could mark a significant turning point for all of the people with mental illness in Idaho. I hear lots of references to doing the people’s business. I think improving access to mental health care is in the interest of people. … NAMI Idaho endorses Medicaid redesign as the most important change the state could make.” If it were enacted, she said, “96 percent of people living with mental illness could be covered.”

Bobbie Phillips told the lawmakers, “I’m here as a parent. I’ve got three daughters all diagnosed with bipolar and PTSD. I have over the years been their greatest advocate.” She said she’s had trouble getting the needed prior authorization for a medication her 13-year-old daughter needs. “These are 28 bucks a pill,” she said. “We can’t afford it as ordinary Americans.”

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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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