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Eye On Boise

Themes at listening session: Concerns about Optum, calls to expand Medicaid for Idahoans in ‘gap’

In the first hour of this morning’s House and Senate Health & Welfare joint listening session, 17 people have testified. Nine presented serious concerns about Optum, the contractor handling behavioral health services for Idaho, including parents of seriously mentally ill children whose services have been cut and providers saying the firm won’t approve needed coverage or adequately address grievances. Some said the state’s contract actually incentivizes Optum to deny service. Nine spoke out for expanding Medicaid, sharing stories of working Idahoans who can’t get health coverage because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get health insurance through Idaho’s insurance exchange, because Idaho hasn’t opted to expand eligibility. Many wore stickers calling for Idaho to "Close the Gap." Two of those speakers also shared concerns about Optum. One person spoke against Medicaid expansion. 

In response to the testimony, Optum issued this statement:

“We are dedicated to helping families dealing with mental illness and substance use issues achieve better outcomes. Through our partnership with the state, more Idahoans are getting access to evidence-based behavioral health services that are shown to work based on guidelines established by the mental health and substance use communities. We understand change is hard and we continue to help providers and the people they serve adapt to the new system.”

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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