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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Otter’s work group backs accepting Medicaid expansion funds

BOISE – More than 100,000 uninsured Idahoans would qualify for health coverage and state and local taxpayers would save $44 million in 2016, under a plan for accepting expanded federal Medicaid funds approved by a working group appointed by Gov. Butch Otter on Thursday. The group’s proposal, approved on a 10-3 vote, is just a recommendation to Otter, who will decide what to propose to state lawmakers in January. Three GOP lawmakers who served on the work group cast the dissenting votes. “There’s no question that something needs to be done,” said Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, one of the three. “Do we need federal money to do it? Could we incorporate that into some other ideas? Those are all debate points, I guess.” Thayn said he plans to work on some ideas to make the plan more appealing to conservative lawmakers. States had the option of accepting millions in federal funds to cover those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for health insurance subsidies through insurance exchanges. Idaho has repeatedly delayed its decision, leaving that group in limbo, while Washington accepted the money and expanded coverage. An earlier state task force that Otter convened voted overwhelmingly in favor of expanding Medicaid, but the governor proposed no legislation on that last year. The proposal endorsed Thursday calls for using the federal money to provide coverage through contracted health plans that focus on primary care and prevention.