The “Close the Gap Idaho” coalition has issued a statement expressing “optimism” about the legislative working group that was appointed today to study alternatives for the 78,000 Idahoans who fall into a health care coverage gap, based on their income. “We are eager to find a path forward for the tens of thousands of Idahoans living without affordable medical care,” said Susie Pouliot, CEO of the Idaho Medical Association, said in the group’s statement. “It is vitally important that the workgroup develop a complete solution that brings our federal tax dollars back to Idaho, replaces our costly and inefficient indigent system and ensures that all Idahoans have full health coverage.”
The coalition noted that during this year’s legislative session, multiple proposals were introduced to address the coverage gap issue, including Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for enhanced funding to primary care, which the coalition said didn’t do enough to provide coverage for those in the gap.
“Many of the medical conditions Idahoans face cannot be fully addressed in a primary care setting,” said Dr. Bruce Belzer, president-elect of the Idaho Medical Association. “Primary care is critical, but without treatment it doesn’t solve our patient’s problems and creates unnecessary added costs down the road, when conditions worsen. This is particularly true with a population that has historically lacked coverage to deal with health problems in a timely and effective manner.”
Brian Whitlock, president and CEO of the Idaho Hospital Association, said, “Right now, healthcare for the gap population is either paid for via county and state indigent funds, or results in medical bankruptcy for families living in the coverage gap and these costs are absorbed by providers, resulting in increased costs for everyone. Close the Gap Idaho is here to support the workgroup in its efforts, and we look forward to the opportunity to address this issue once and for all with a complete, Idaho-based solution to the coverage gap.”
The group is a coalition of healthcare policy experts, non-profit leaders, healthcare providers and more; it favors “a comprehensive, managed care solution that includes insurance coverage of primary care, specialty care, hospitalization, labs, pharmacy and behavioral healthcare.” In its statement, the coalition said, “By taking advantage of healthcare dollars already set aside for Idaho to extend coverage to the gap population, the state and counties will save millions of dollars they now spend on emergency care for people without health insurance.”