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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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League of Women Voters: Prop. 2’s passage is will of voters

By Susan Ripley and President League of Women Voters of Idaho

The League of Women Voters supports the right to vote, which we consider the most important voice in a democracy. After all, voting is in our name: It’s what we do and what we encourage others to do.

When the League takes a position on an issue, it is done so after lengthy and in-depth study of that issue. When the League backed Proposition 2, our support was based on solid facts and years of advocacy for the tens of thousands of Idahoans who had no access to basic health care coverage.

When Idahoans spoke with their votes on Prop. 2, they were addressing the Legislature. Prop. 2 did not ask for Medicaid expansion with barriers and caveats. It spoke for medical insurance for those whose income was too high to qualify for existing Medicaid and not enough to qualify for subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act – the so-called insurance gap.

The League of Women Voters of Idaho formally voices opposition to any bill that includes cuts and other modifications to the Medicaid expansion proposition as passed by 61 percent of the voters in November’s election.

The LWVID works to support voter education, voter registration and voting your choice. The voters in Idaho have spoken clearly. Their wish is to have Medicaid expansion, fully funded, and with no barriers to coverage that would prevent Idahoans from receiving the care they need to stay healthy. We know that rural Idahoans, those with disabilities, the elderly, children, and those with limited income are at risk of losing Medicaid. Taking away health coverage does nothing to create healthy families, who in turn keep our communities vital and our economy strong.

According to the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, Medicaid expansion will bring tax dollars back to Idaho as part of the federal government’s 90 percent portion of Medicaid expense. In turn, expansion will lead to the creation of more than 5,600 new jobs related to the increased demand for health care under expanded Medicaid.

Doctors, nurses, office and other support staff will be needed. They will pay taxes, buy groceries, shop local stores, purchase homes, and contribute in many other ways toward making their communities better and healthier places to live and work.

Adding eligibility restrictions would eliminate much of this economic stimulus of expanding Medicaid.

The more than 30 states that have expanded Medicaid have ample data showing healthy people are more productive at work or at school. In Michigan and Ohio when workers received access to Medicaid, they took 10 percent fewer sick days. Taking away coverage only compounds the problem by putting individual Idahoans at risk and doing so at taxpayer expense.

A bill with sidebars will just grow more government with bureaucracy and red tape, and it will cause eligible families to lose coverage. Medicaid restrictions that cause Idahoans to lose coverage would mean the state would need to preserve expensive crisis care measures like the Catastrophic Health Care program and indigent funds to cover uninsured Idahoans at taxpayer expense. In Kentucky and Pennsylvania alone, costs for such barriers incurred hundreds of millions of dollars in added expense and hundreds of new staff were needed to administer the increased bureaucracy.

In addition, the sidebars could lead to expensive lawsuits. Arkansas and Kentucky have become mired in litigation concerning the legality of the barriers they erected to Medicaid expansion and the effects on their populations. Why risk millions in Idaho taxpayer dollars when other states have already shown the folly of this path?

The LWVID stands with the will of the voters of Idaho in support of fully funding an unmodified Medicaid expansion with no barriers to coverage for any Idahoan. The LWVID strongly supports full funding and opposes any bill with barriers for Medicaid expansion.

Please encourage your district legislators to vote to expand unmodified Medicaid for Idaho. Their vote will save state and county dollars; grow Idaho’s economy; create a healthy and productive workforce; and improve access to health care for rural communities.