As chairmen of various legislative committees make their pitches to JFAC on what should be funded in the state budget in the areas they oversee, House Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, had this plea on health care for the “gap” population, the 78,000 Idahoans who now make too little to qualify for subsidized insurance through the state exchange, but get no other help because Idaho hasn’t expanded Medicaid to cover adults who don't qualify for nursing home care:
“Health care and the gap population is still a work in progress,” Wood said. “At some basic level, the House Health & Welfare Committee unanimously agreed what is currently happening is just unfair and wrong. It’s as simple as that.”
“We don’t have an answer of what to do,” he said. “But we need to find an equitable and effective answer to the health care issue facing the gap population. And when we do, we certainly request that JFAC find a methodology of funding that.”
He also urged full funding for Idaho’s suicide prevention hotline and its state suicide prevention plan; and funding for “as many crisis centers as the joint committee feels comfortable with funding” to address gaps in Idaho’s system of providing behavioral health care. “Probably the most urgent need of all Idahoans in the health care arena is behavioral services,” Wood said, “not only the gap population but in all economic strata. It’s probably the weakest component of the health care system in Idaho.” He said his committee supports an increase in home care reimbursements, as the budget allows, and funding for needed upgrades to the computer system for the child support program.
The joint budget committee today heard from the chairs of the House and Senate Health & Welfare committees, the Senate Resources Committee, and the Senate Education Committee. Tomorrow morning, it will make its statewide budget decisions, which will be written into every state agency budget it writes; then hold a public hearing from 9:45 to 11 in the JFAC room before starting budget-setting on Friday.