In one of the Idaho Legislature’s final votes in its 2016 session, House lawmakers rejected a proposed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) designed to provide health insurance coverage to the 78,000 individuals in Idaho’s so-called “Medicaid gap.”
People caught in the Medicaid gap are those who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid and have incomes too low to qualify for Obamacare marketplace subsidies.
On March 25, the Idaho House voted 55–12 not to approve a version of House Bill 644 the Senate had amended and approved 27–8.
Under HB 644, titled the Idaho Accountable Care Waiver Act (ACWA), the state would have called upon the state’s Department of Health and Welfare to apply for a waiver intended to procure federal money to defray the cost of expanding Medicaid coverage to uninsured able-bodied adults with incomes below the federal poverty line (FPL). Traditional Medicaid expansion stretches the program to cover individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of FPL.
‘Idaho Can Do Better’
Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says Medicaid makes people dependent on government while providing poor service.
“Government health care programs are failures; they are miserable, unmitigated failures,” Hoffman said. “The fact is that we’ve got to stop setting poor people up for failure.”
Hoffman says Medicaid expansion is for populations dependent on government to provide solutions, which doesn’t describe the people of Idaho.
“This is a state with a legislature that’s 80 percent Republican, an all-Republican executive branch, and an all-Republican congressional delegation,” Hoffman said. “Expansion of Medicaid is what I would expect from a state that is statist, a state that buys into the mantra that government solves problems. Idaho can and should do better.”
Jonathan Ingram, vice president of research at the Foundation for Government Accountability, says ACWA would have displaced spending on important state programs.
“This is another attempt to expand Obamacare in Idaho,” Ingram said. “Ultimately, that means that resources spent on Medicaid expansion are going to be taken away from other critical programs and priorities, such as education and public safety.”
Ingram says the burden on Idaho taxpayers would have been overwhelming.
“According to the data from the state’s actuary, expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults below the poverty line would have cost taxpayers $4.5 billion dollars over the next decade,” Ingram said. “And if the state expanded up to 138 percent of the poverty line as Obamacare calls for, they would have been looking at more than $8 billion dollars in new costs.”
Luke Karnick ([email protected]) writes from Indianapolis, Indiana.
Matthew Glans, “Idaho Should Avoid Pitfalls of Quasi Medicaid Expansion,” Research and Commentary, The Heartland Institute, March 21, 2016: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-idaho-should-avoid-pitfalls-quasi-medicaid-expansion
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