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Eye On Boise

Loertscher on Medicaid expansion funds: ‘What a good thing that would be for our mental health system in Idaho’

In the final discussions between members of the Legislature’s working group on the state’s health coverage gap this afternoon, Co-Chair Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said he believes the case has been made that Idaho should tap federal Medicaid funds at least for mental health services. “What a good thing that would be for our mental health system in Idaho,” he said, “and I don’t know if anybody could argue with that or not. But certainly if there’s some way we could access the Medicaid option for that but not for some of the other stuff that would come along with it… I don’t know if that’s a possibility or not. …  I think what we’re trying to get at is the populations we need to get covered very most, as one of the alternatives we might suggest to the Legislature.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, the panel’s Senate co-chair, said, “I’m hesitant to try to put a bill together for all of us to sit here and vote yea or nay on.” But he said he thought the panel could come up with a joint resolution that lays out solutions for the Legislature; then various members could follow that up with proposed bills.

Loertscher then gave each committee member a “take-home assignment,” for each to draft a resolution that reflects “in a perfect world, if you could get back what you want. Bring it to our next meeting so we can flesh that out.”

The panel also could draft a report to the Legislature, with or without proposed legislation attached. Loertscher said drafting the ultimate legislation will be difficult. “I wish this were a simple process, but it’s not,” he said.

During the public testimony portion of today's all-day committee meeting, 39 people testified, from all over the state; all but one favored accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds to close Idaho's health coverage gap. That gap, into which 78,000 Idahoans fall, comprises those who make too much to qualify for Idaho's very limited Medicaid program, but not enough to be eligible for subsidized health coverage through the state insurance exchange, through which more than 100,000 Idahoans have enrolled in insurance plans.

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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