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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

House passes ‘gap’ grant bill, $5M a year for 2 years, on 43-26 vote

HB 644, the bill just introduced this morning to grant $5 million next year and the year after to Idaho’s community health clinics and rural health clinics to increase their services to the gap population, has passed the House on a 43-26 vote. The bill also sets aside $400,000 for data collection on the gap population. Debate was varied. Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked, “None of this money will be going to Planned Parenthood – is there some assurance of that?” Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the money goes to the “Community Health Center Network of Idaho. That’s an umbrella organization that assists these community health centers, and none of them are affiliated with Planned Parenthood.”

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “What’s not to like about a grant program for community clinics? I think it’s a great idea. But I don’t want anyone here to be deluded into thinking that that’s going to take care of the gap population. ... Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this is providing coverage, because it really isn’t.”

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said, “I personally know that some of them will die before they go to the emergency room or before they go and seek medical help and have the indigent program pay for it. I think there’s some that already have. And why I’m going to support this legislation I think is a matter of fairness. I have good insurance … we have good insurance. They have none. They didn’t desire to get into the gap. They were placed in the gap by circumstances beyond their control, beyond my control, and I want to help them.” Andrus said he’s heard talk about bringing in federal dollars and programs. “We’ve gone down the road far enough that we’re discriminating against these people – we’re actually discriminating against them,” he said. “They can’t afford insurance. … If there’s a better program than this, then I would consider it. But this is the best option we have today. … So I’m going to support it.”

Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Meridian, said, “What are we going to do, sit on our hands? … We’re not going to just sit on our hands and just wait and see what happens. This is a small step. This isn’t intended to cover the whole gap and deal with all of their needs.”

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, said, “Absent the preventive care, we’re already paying for what happens when we don’t address it. We’re not making it a state issue, it’s already a state issue.” He called the move “more responsible ways of expending the money that we’re putting out in health care already.”

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, said, “It’s not a solution. It’s not going to be something that’s going to help me sleep at night.  … I think we should start again and get something right before we go home.”

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, said, “Our goal is to create medical homes, patient-centered medical homes. … Yeah, it’s not going to take care of all, it’s only $5 million dollars. But we want to expand them and help them continue to move out to make a difference.”

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said with the state’s current medical indigency and catastrophic care program, “We have about as inefficient of a medical program as could be invented anywhere.” He said he spoke with the director of the community health center in his district. “Our director assured me that with this money they could serve more people.”

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “Yes, I feel bad for the 78,000 people, who wouldn’t? But it still crosses that line that I don’t think I have a right to cross, and that’s basically this: Do I have the right to force you, you, and you to do something that I can’t do myself? Now this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the people created this government. Now if I cross that line, and say yessirree-Bob, the creature that I’ve created becomes greater than the creator, then where do you draw the line to stop this? Now I agree this is a heart-wrenching situation.” But he warned of a “start down the road of socialism to the Nth degree.” Nielsen said, “President Grover Cleveland said this. … ‘Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.’ How we have changed.”

In his closing debate, Luker urged support for the bill, saying, “The clinics can put this money to good use.” The measure now moves to the Senate side.

Here’s how the House vote broke down on HB 644:

Voting in favor: Reps. Anderson, Anderst, Andrus, Barbieri, Bateman, Bedke, Bell, Beyeler, Boyle, Burtenshaw, Chaney, Cheatham, Clow, Collins, Dayley, DeMordaunt, Gestrin, Gibbs, Hartgen, Horman, Kauffman, Kerby, Loertscher, Luker, McDonald, Mendive, Miller, Monks, Moyle, Packer, Palmer, Perry, Raybould, Redman, Romrell, Thompson, Troy, Trujillo, VanOrden, Vander Woude, Wills, Wood, Youngblood.  Total – 43.

Voting against: Reps. Batt, Chew, Crane, Dixon, Erpelding, Gannon, Harris, Hixon, Holtzclaw, Jordan, King, Kloc, McCrostie, McMillan, Nate, Nielsen, Nye, Pence, Rubel, Rudolph, Rusche, Scott, Shepherd, Sims, Smith, Wintrow. Total – 26.

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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