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Eye On Boise

Sen. Schmidt gives up his state-paid health insurance out of ‘sense of fairness,’ due to coverage gap

Sen. Dan Schmidt speaks to reporters at a news conference outside the Idaho Senate chamber on Thursday (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Dan Schmidt speaks to reporters at a news conference outside the Idaho Senate chamber on Thursday (Betsy Z. Russell)

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, announced today that he’s giving up his state-paid health insurance. “I have state taxpayer-funded health insurance, because I am a state legislator,” he said. “I get that benefit, and this Legislature can’t give that benefit to 78,000 Idahoans who can’t afford it.” Schmidt, a physician who has ardently advocated for expanding Idaho’s Medicaid program to cover that “gap” group, said he decided to give up his insurance coverage “pretty much based on a sense of fairness.”

“This is a nudge,” Schmidt said at a Capitol news conference. “I’m trying to nudge folks to feel a sense of urgency, to feel a sense of doing the right thing.”

He said he and his wife don’t have any other coverage. “We’ll probably have to go buy it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair that I get the taxpayers of Idaho to buy me health insurance, and we’re not willing to look at that problem for our other citizens who don’t have that benefit. To me, that’s something we should be doing.”

Asked about the House Health & Welfare Committee’s announcement this morning that it’ll consider a new proposal to address the gap population on Monday, Schmidt said, “I’d love it if they’ve got some proposals that will solve this problem. To me, our state has a problem – we have a lot of low-income folks working minimum-wage jobs, tough for them to get health insurance. We can help our state be more prosperous, more productive if we can solve this problem. And we can solve this problem. We can solve this problem and save the taxpayer a bunch of money, and shame on us for not solving it.”

Schmidt introduced legislation this year to enact the “Healthy Idaho” plan, which was developed by a task force appointed by  Gov. Butch Otter; it would accept federal Medicaid expansion funds, and use them to cover more low-income residents, and to buy private insurance for those who have slightly higher incomes but still make too little to afford insurance. The bill got a hearing in the Senate Health &  Welfare Committee, but no vote up or down.

“Am I willing to compromise? My answer to that is yes, I’ll compromise,” Schmidt said. “But to me, this is a problem that needs a solution. It doesn’t need a fake answer, it needs a real answer.”

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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