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News >  ID Government

Eye on Boise: Lawmakers gear up to dive into future Medicaid expansion funding, impacts

Betsy Z. Russell (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Betsy Z. Russell (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Betsy Z. Russell Idaho Press-Tribune

A legislative interim committee has scheduled four meetings between now and November, with the first on June 17, to “evaluate the effectiveness of Medicaid eligibility expansion and its impact on the financial obligation of the counties and the state in providing indigent assistance.”

Medicaid expansion already is funded for its first year, the fiscal year that starts July 1, without tapping the state general fund; instead, the funding will come from the Millennium Fund that was created with tobacco settlement proceeds, and from savings in the Corrections and Health & Welfare budgets.

The committee will look at funding issues for the state’s 10% share of Medicaid expansion costs going forward; the federal government will pay 90%. That includes the expansion’s impact on the existing county indigent care program and state Catastrophic Health Care Fund, which now pays the catastrophic medical bills of Idahoans who can’t afford to pay; on county obligations to provide assistance for involuntary mental health commitments; and on other county expenses for indigent residents, including public defense, jail medical, burials and more.

“I’m really glad we’re going to have the opportunity over the interim to really take a deep dive into these numbers and see where we land,” Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, told the Idaho Healthcare Summit last week; she’s been appointed to the interim committee. “From what I’ve seen, the savings will outweigh the costs, because we are spending so much money right now delivering health care the most expensive way.”

Some lawmakers this year wanted to eliminate state funding for the catastrophic health care program now that Medicaid is expanding, but fund administrators said there’s a year’s time lag before bills are paid, making such a move premature at best.

“There’s a portion of the population that still is not going to be covered under Medicaid, so the idea that we can just eliminate the CAT Fund is probably not a good one, because those folks are still going to need health care,” Jordan said. She also warned against pushing costs from the state onto local counties, which tap local property taxes to pay the bills. “We can’t push any more onto the property taxpayers,” she said.

The 10-member committee will be co-chaired by Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee Chairman Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, and House Health & Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley. “I anticipate a very thorough review of all of the possibilities, and then the committee will make a recommendation to the next session of the Legislature what to do,” Wood said.

There’s more information about the committee and its meeting schedule online at, under “2019 Interim.”

Idaho ranks last

The U.S. Census last week released its latest stats on state revenues per pupil in public schools, both elementary and secondary, and Idaho came out dead last – 51st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The national average in 2017, the year from which the latest data was drawn, was $14,273 per student; Idaho was at $8,587, trailing Utah, which ranked next-to-last at $8,775. The highest per-pupil revenue figure, at $23,091, was in New York.

The census also released rankings for school revenue per $1,000 personal income by state; in that ranking, Idaho ranked 46th, at $35.21, compared with a U.S. average of $43.07. Utah came in 41st at $40.19.

You can see the full data online at

Those rankings were for revenue for schools; the census also released new figures for per-pupil spending. In that data, Idaho edged out Utah to come in next-to-last.

Win a chair from Morning Star Lift

Got a special memory about Bogus Basin’s now-defunct Morning Star triple chairlift? With the lift being replaced by a high-speed quad in a big upgrade that’s underway right now, Bogus Basin has auctioned off 30 of the chairs from the Morning Star triple, making more than $76,000 for the nonprofit community ski resort, and there’s another auction scheduled for June. But there’s a way you could get a chair for your yard or deck for free: Share your story of a special memory on the Morning Star chairlift.

Contest entrants must be 18 or older, and stories must be 250 words or less; photos are optional. The stories must be submitted by June 2 by email to The winner will be announced June 7; entries are limited to one per person; and entrants must agree to allow Bogus to use their story.

This is the chairlift that connects the lower lodge to the upper one; the one that’s had big, long lines in recent years; the one that lots of cute little Mogul Mice ride in their bright-yellow vests with their instructors and chair-riders; the one that brings together experts headed to the backside and beginners headed to an easy front-side run; the one that whipped around the bullwheel so fast it’d crack you in the calves if you didn’t watch out, but then moved achingly slow all the way up the mountain, stopping and starting … Who hasn’t got a story? I’ll be one of the “celebrity judges” for the story contest, and I can’t wait to read all the stories.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state Capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group.

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