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Eye On Boise

Advocates warn Medicaid block-grant proposals could hurt Idahoans with disabilities

Advocates for Idahoans with disabilities speak out at a news conference Tuesday in Boise (Betsy Z. Russell)
Advocates for Idahoans with disabilities speak out at a news conference Tuesday in Boise (Betsy Z. Russell)

About 30 advocates for people with disabilities gathered across the street from the Capitol today to oppose proposals to turn Medicaid into a block grant program to states – saying it will harm Idahoans with disabilities.

Mike Skelton, board president of the Consortium for Idahoans with Disabilities, said Idaho is not federally required to offer an array of community-based mental health services, but it does – and those optional services most likely would be cut if federal funding to states for Medicaid was reduced and put into block-grant form. “Every attempt to block-grant or cap Medicaid funding drastically reduces funding for Medicaid,” Skelton said.

Jim Baugh, head of Disability Rights Idaho, said Medicaid is not just health insurance for the poor. It also provides something that traditional health insurance coverage doesn’t, he said – long-term services and supports for people with disabilities, “people who otherwise would be in institutional care. These are essential services. They also are about 42 percent of the Medicaid expenditures” in Idaho.

With discussion in Congress of moving to a block-grant program for Medicaid, Baugh said, “We’re very concerned that this is a threat to people with disabilities in Idaho. Medicaid is more than just a medical insurance program. It also is essentially in-home supports for people with disabilities that allow them to live outside an institution.”

Baugh said the groups are trying to get their message across to Idaho’s congressional delegation and other decision-makers. There’s more info online here.

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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