Medicaid Expansion Bill Stopped in Idaho

Published April 27, 2018

Time ran out for a bill that would have forced Idaho residents with complex medical conditions off of their private health insurance plans and onto Medicaid rolls, after the state House of Representatives voted to send the bill back to a committee for reconsideration days before the Legislature’s 2018 session ended.

House Bill 464 (H.B. 464) was referred back to the state House Health and Welfare Committee on March 21, effectively stranding the bill in committee.

H.B. 464 would have authorized the state to ask the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for permission to require more than 50,000 individuals with low incomes or participating in high-risk reinsurance pools to stop using private health insurance plans and instead enroll in Medicaid.

‘Bailout for Insurance Companies’

Idaho state Rep. Bryan Zollinger (R-Idaho Falls) says the bill would have combined two big-government proposals into one expensive package.

“There were two separate federal waivers we were going to apply for,” Zollinger said. “One of the waivers was going to move approximately 25,000 of the sickest people in Idaho on to Medicaid. Most of these people have private insurance anyway. It was a bailout for insurance companies, because they would have gotten the sickest people in Idaho off their enrollment and on government health care.

“The other portion was that about 30,000 people use the advanced-premium tax credit to purchase insurance on the Idaho insurance exchange, set up as Obamacare,” Zollinger said. “The governor looked at it as a way to partially close the gap of those not already covered by Medicaid, caving to that political pressure from the liberal Left.”

Robbing Peter

If the bills had been approved, Medicaid expansion would have squeezed out funding for priorities such as government education and law enforcement, Zollinger says.

“If other states are any indicator, Medicaid expansion would either bankrupt the state completely within a matter of years or we would have to take money from education,” Zollinger said. “We would have had to take money from infrastructure projects. We would have had to take money from the police and court systems, or we would have to double everybody’s tax rates or more. That’s a reality the Left doesn’t want to take into account: we just don’t have the money to do it without taking the money from somewhere else.”

Expensive Expansion

Fred Birnbaum, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says the costs of expanding Medicaid eligibility in other states have consistently exceeded the benefits.

 “States that have expanded Medicaid have had cost overruns of over 157 percent,” Birnbaum said. “They’ve also more than doubled the [number of] people that were projected to join the program. Medicaid is a federal/state program; it’s driving the federal deficit up, and it’s also driving state deficits.

“Medicaid needs to be reformed, not expanded,” Birnbaum said.

Costs of Government Intrusion

Instead of expanding Medicaid eligibility, Zollinger says reducing the cost of health care will increase the availability of affordable health care for Idahoans.

“Ultimately, we have to get back to a completely free market driven health care system to ever see the costs reduced,” Zollinger said. “Everybody knows that that’s the ultimate solution. Medical costs have to go down so that people can afford access, and the only ways  we’re going to do is that to reduce some of the regulation.”

Reducing the government’s role in health care will benefit both doctors and patients, Zollinger says.

“The average doctor pays about $95,000 a year complying with regulations, paperwork, or whatever it may be,” Zollinger said. “We have to get rid of some of those regulations and restore a free-market system where people have direct relationships with their doctors.”