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Eye On Boise

Wood pulls $10 million Medicaid gap coverage bill

House Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood is pulling his $10 million proposal to provide at least some care for those in Idaho’s health coverage gap, the Lewiston Tribune reports, saying the measure doesn’t have enough votes to move out of committee, much less pass the House. Wood told the Joint Millennium Fund Committee on Monday, “I don't think there will be any legislation coming forward this year regarding the gap population,” Tribune reporter Bill Spence writes. Wood said his bill "is languishing in House Health & Welfare, but there's not enough votes to get it out."

In a radical departure from past practice, Wood also recommended that the Millennium Fund Committee not solicit any grant applications next year, Spence reports. That would provide a funding source for a possible "gap bill" next session and allow the committee to step back and re-evaluate how Millennium Fund revenues are being spent.

"We're spending a lot of money and I don't know what we're accomplishing," Wood said. "I think we need a different paradigm going forward. It's more of a patronage system right now. I worry that we're supporting organizations, rather than supporting programs."

Wood’s proposal died on a tied 5-5 vote, but that was because some members want more time to consider the idea, Spence reports; the committee plans to meet again in a week or two to discuss the issue further.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engeling, D-Boise, wants the Legislature to address the needs of the Medicaid gap population, Spence reports, but she opposed using Millennium Fund dollars to do so. "It's taking money away from people and programs that need it desperately and using it to help other needy folks," she said. "I don't think that's the right approach."

An estimated 78,000 Idahoans fall into the coverage gap because they make too much to qualify for Idaho’s limited Medicaid program, but not enough to quality for subsidized insurance through the state health insurance exchange.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said Idaho's opportunity to help the gap population has come and gone. "I believe we missed the train for taking care of them," he said. "There's only one place our gap population can look to now for a remedy, and that's Washington, D.C. This state can't do that on its own; we can't afford it. With a different Congress and different president, a federal solution may be more acceptable in Idaho than it has been the last eight years."

Spence’s full report is online here.




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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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