Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 26° Partly Cloudy

Eye On Boise

Schmidt resigns from CAT board

Sen. Dan Schmidt (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Dan Schmidt (Betsy Z. Russell)

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, announced today that he’s resigning from the board of the Catastrophic Health Care Fund, on which the physician-lawmaker has served for the past five years. “I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done there,” Schmidt said. But, he said, “I cannot continue to serve on a program board I fundamentally believe should not exist. By my stepping aside, I hope another senator will have the opportunity to learn as much as I have.”

The board meets a half-dozen time each year, each time reviewing as many as 200 cases. Schmidt pulled out a thick stack of files and read from one. “Twenty-seven-year-old male, monthly income $2,200,” he read. “Hospital medical bills: $146,000.”

“I have reviewed over 1,000 applications each year, many of them leading to the bankruptcy of the afflicted,” Schmidt said. “While I appreciate that having health insurance would not prevent all these injuries or illnesses, it sure would change how the care is paid for. And that needs to change.”

The state’s CAT fund covers the catastrophic medical bills of Idahoans who can’t afford to pay; counties review all cases and cover the first $11,000 from local property taxes, and the state fund picks up the rest. Liens are placed against virtually everything the patient owns in an attempt to recover the costs, including the patient’s estate after death.

Schmidt has long advocated expanding Medicaid in Idaho so people would have access to affordable health insurance; if the state made that move, it could eliminate the CAT program.

Schmidt said he hopes that another senator will learn as much as he has serving on the board. “There are many times in my life when I’ve tried to get things to happen. Sometimes you push, and sometimes you step back,” he said. “In this case, I’m stepping back.”

He said his resignation from the board isn’t a protest. “I’d characterize it as an attempt to further the conversation – an opportunity for somebody else to learn the things I’ve learned.” It’s up to House Minority Leader Michelle Stennett to name a replacement for Schmidt on the board, which already includes one other senator and two state representatives, along with six county commissioners and a representative of the governor’s office.

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.

Follow Betsy online: