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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Feds receptive to waiver for Idaho to follow ‘private option,’ but no bills proposed thus far…

After his presentation to the House Health & Welfare Committee today on the “private option” for Medicaid expansion funds in Idaho, state Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong said he’s not seen any indication that enabling legislation to accomplish that would be proposed this year. However, committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, said the panel will consider legislation tomorrow from Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, to do away with the existing county medical indigency/state catastrophic care program.

Armstrong noted that if the state and counties’ responsibility for addressing indigent medical bills were eliminated, “Some way you have to address what’s going to happen next. If they’re no long paying these bills, it would be bad debt on the hospitals – where else is it going to go?”

He said, “We’re here to respond and react appropriately to whatever policy the Legislature may establish. We would be able to move fairly rapidly if we were so directed.”

So far, he said, the department has been exploring with the Center for Medicaid Services what the state would have to do to get a waiver to allow it to do as several other states have, and accept federal Medicaid expansion funds but use them to purchase private insurance, rather than to enroll the additional patients in Medicaid. Armstrong said CMS has been very receptive. "Frankly, we’ve never seen CMS in a more cooperative mode than they are now."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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