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Huckleberries Online

Trib: Cheers to courageous legislator

In his weekly Cheers & Jeers column, Opinion Editor Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune gives CHEERs to ... state Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow:

Following his conscience is costing him dearly.

Schmidt can't understand how a group of state lawmakers - who receive government-provided health insurance - would deprive 78,000 low-income Idahoans from government-provided health insurance.

Those are the people in the so-called Medicaid gap. They make too little to afford government-subsidized private health insurance under Obamacare.

Idaho's GOP-led Legislature refuses to extend Medicaid coverage to them - even though it would save state taxpayers millions and spare people from dying prematurely for lack of preventive medical care.

In protest, Schmidt walked away from the health insurance coverage he's entitled to receive as a state lawmaker.

As the Idaho Statesman's Bill Dentzer reported this week, that's a sweet deal for legislators.

For one thing, these part-time officials qualify for a benefit most people work full-time to obtain. For another, it's relatively cheap. The state's most popular health insurance policy runs $171 a month - for an employee, spouse and two or more children.

Dentzer reported 30 of Idaho's 35 state senators and 60 of its 70 House members are enrolled in state health insurance policies.

When Schmidt dropped that policy last spring, you got the impression he might secure insurance elsewhere. Not so.

Because he walked away from an employer-provided plan, Schmidt is not entitled to sign up for insurance on Idaho's exchange until November.

So like 78,000 Idahoans, he now faces financial setbacks in the event of a major health care expense. And because Obamacare inflicts a tax penalty on those who forego insurance, Schmidt gets to pay that, too.

D.F. Oliveria
D.F. (Dave) Oliveria joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently is a columnist and compiles the Huckleberries Online blog and writes about North Idaho in his Huckleberries column.

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