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Monday, December 9, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

House passes gap coverage study committee 39-30 after tense debate

The debate was tense, as the House took up HCR 63, the resolution just introduced and passed out of committee this morning to create an interim study committee on seeking a possible federal waiver to provide care for Idaho’s gap population, those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state insurance exchange. At its close, the house voted 39-30 to pass the resolution.

It says, “Expanding access to health care to medically underserved Idahoans would improve their health and potentially save lives.” But it directs only that a waiver plan be developed – not that it be submitted. “A waiver application shall not be submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services without legislative approval,” the measure says.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said the bill just delays getting care for those people by at least a year. “To my mind, it’s clear that we have kicked the can down the road because it’s a difficult issue,” he said. Rep. Dan Rudolph, D-Lewiston, said, “To my mind, the reasons to delay doing this are bogus.”

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said, “Many of us in this body may have gotten here by campaigning against … Obamacare. This is the opposite. This is getting us right up to the final step of Idaho fully adopting every single part of Obamacare.”

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said, “Now some of you may have gotten here by running against a president, for state government, I appreciate that. But I don’t know how many  of you got here by running against 78,000 Idahoans … many of which die each year because they’re working and they can’t afford health care.” Erpelding said that “blows my mind,” saying, “This bill is the epitome of a punt.”

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, a physician who chairs the House Health & Welfare Committee, said Idaho wants to provide help to the 78,000 Idahoans in the gap population. “But we’re not going to do that on the fly, and we’re not going to do it overnight,” he said. “There’s people here who think that we ought not to do a single thing. I disagree with that. And there’s people here who think that we ought to have been doing a whole lot more and a whole long time ago. I disagree with that, because ... we do not have the infrastructure in place to do it right.” He said, “For the first time, I think we are taking a meaningful step – this Legislature is taking a meaningful step, not somebody else. And I think that’s very important.”

Late, Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, asked for and received permission to change his vote from no to yes. Here’s the revised vote breakdown on HCR 63:

Voting in favor: Reps. Anderson, Andrus, Bedke, Barbieri, Bateman, Bell, Beyeler, Boyle, Burtenshaw, Chaney, Cheatham, Clow, Collins, Dayley, DeMordaunt, Gestrin, Gibbs, Hartgen, Horman, Kauffman, Kerby, Loertscher, Luker, McDonald, Mendive, Miller, Monks, Moyle, Palmer, Perry, Raybould, Redman, Romrell, Thompson, Troy, Trujillo, VanOrden, Vander Woude, Wills, Wood. Total – 40.

Voting against: Reps. Anderst, Batt, Chew, Crane, Dixon, Erpelding, Gannon, Harris, Hixon, Holtzclaw, Jordan, King, Kloc, McCrostie, McMillan, Nate, Nielsen, Nye, Packer, Pence, Rubel, Rudolph, Rusche, Scott, Shepherd, Sims, Smith, Wintrow, Youngblood. Total – 29.

Absent – Malek.

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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