The House Health & Welfare Committee has voted 8-3 in favor of bills to establish a study committee to look into health coverage and a possible waiver for the state’s “gap” population, and to give a $5.4 million grant next year, plus another $5 million the following year, to the state’s community health clinics to gather data on the gap population and provide additional services to that group. That’s the 78,000 Idahoans who make too much to qualify for Idaho’s limited Medicaid program, but not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state exchange.
Rep. Brandon Hixon, R-Caldwell, joined Democratic Reps. John Rusche and Sue Chew in opposing both bills, which the committee voted to send to the full House without any further hearing or public testimony. “We need to come up with a viable solution,” Hixon said. “What I see before me today is not a viable solution.”
Rusche said, “I don’t think that anybody should be deceiving themselves that we’re really doing something to provide health coverage for the low income. … It will not provide coverage for the gap group. As far as needing data … we have plenty of data.”
Chew said, “I’m really sad for today. I would have liked to have seen us move something forward.”
Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, praised the grant bill, which calls for allocating $5 million a year for two years to the clinics from the Millennium Fund, plus $400,000 next year from the general fund for data collection. “I’m glad that we’re kind of moving forward with helping out the community health clinics who’ve been doing a great job, particularly Heritage Health up in my neck of the woods," he said. "I think this will continue to advance toward a patient-centered medical home, and that’s what I’m looking forward to getting accomplished and helping the 100 percent below poverty level.”
Rep. Carolyn Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, said, “This maybe wasn’t the direction that we wanted to go.” She said she’s been moved by the stories shared by people in the gap population who’ve met with her. “It’s going to take us longer to get there, but … it’s still, I’m confident, going to get us to where we want to go.”
Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, said, “My concern is going home with nothing, and that’s really our alternative. I’d rather see us at least get this much movement out of it than to go home without anything.”
Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, the committee chair, said, “Success is measured not in the short run, but success is measured in the long run … So while there are probably many disappointed people with the speed at which the Legislature appears to be moving on this topic … the fact is, is that we do what we can do, and you can’t get done what you can’t get done.”