On Nov. 6, Idahoans have a chance to correct a situation that has imperiled thousands of Idahoans.
The general election will give voters the opportunity to vote for the expansion of Medicaid.
Medicaid, the state-federal partnership offering health care assistance to those who meet certain poverty guidelines, has been a literal lifesaver for millions of Americans since it was created in 1965.
After the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states were able to participate in an expanded form of Medicaid that would allow more people to be covered.
Idaho did not opt in despite the efforts of several groups and numerous individuals advocating for the program.
Since 2014, too many Idahoans have been left without access to affordable health care. Those people fell in the so-called “coverage gap,” making too much money to qualify for Medicaid but couldn’t afford coverage through Your Health Idaho, the state health insurance exchange.
Without coverage, those in the gap have few options when it comes to health care. There is the state Catastrophic Health Care Cost Program as well as indigent funds provided by the counties, but not nearly enough to meet the needs of the estimated 62,000 people who are in the gap.
It makes fiscal and moral sense to expand Medicaid coverage to include those in the gap. Having access to good health care is a right everyone should have.
The League of Women Voters of Idaho believes in that philosophy and has taken a strong position in favor of affordable health care for all.
The moral aspect of providing access to health care for those who currently don’t have it is easy to understand. It is part of our heritage in Idaho to look out for those in need and help provide for them. We see examples of such selfless actions daily.
Proposition 2 also makes good financial sense.
According to the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that conducts research and provides information about Idaho tax and budget issues, “allowing Idahoans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll in Medicaid is the most efficient way of addressing the coverage gap. A more complex proposal considered by the Legislature in previous years would have cost the state $10 million per year in administration. As written for the ballot initiative, Medicaid expansion will only cost $900,000 to administer.”
If the state and county catastrophic programs are eliminated, the savings jump to $60.2 million in the third year. That will produce a $15.6 million savings year after year. Those are tax dollars returning to Idaho.
The ICFP also addresses some additional economic impacts of the expansion. The increase in Medicaid enrollees will necessitate the hiring of additional nurses, clinic managers and other health care staff on the local and state levels. It is estimated the increased economic activity generated by those professionals would likely exceed $20 million annually.
From the League’s perspective and that of many others, there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by expending Medicaid. Idahoans will be healthier and able to enjoy what the Gem State has to offer rather than wondering what happens if they become seriously ill.
We encourage all those eligible to vote “yes” on Proposition 2 on Nov. 6.
Susan Ripley of Moscow is president of the League of Women Voters of Idaho.
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