Sometimes in healthcare, we seek a second opinion.

For some Idaho legislators, the memory of 61 percent of Idahoans supporting Medicaid expansion seems to have faded just four months after the November election. Last week, they received a second opinion.

In a statewide poll conducted in late February, Idahoans were asked if they believed the legislature should implement the will of the people, or change the law that was passed by voters. An overwhelming 74.3 percent of Idahoans said, “Implement the will of the people.”

Despite that strong, and growing, support among Idahoans for implementing Proposition 2 as passed, a lot of “sideboards” have been discussed since the election. Sideboards usually help keep things in the wagon, but it is clear that those designing these legislative sideboards are doing it to keep people out of health coverage.

One barrier to coverage would be a mandatory work reporting requirement. This would involve the state spending millions to track the work, training or education of those who receive Medicaid. In addition to working two or three jobs to make ends meet for their family, those low-income workers would then have to catalog those hours and report them to the state. The state says it will cost $2 million to track the activities of working Idahoans on Medicaid.

Rather than implementing costly and burdensome reporting requirements, other states have focused on training and education opportunities for their Medicaid recipients. In Montana, 58 percent of the participants in their work promotion program increased their wages by an average of over $8,000 annually.

Idahoans clearly prefer less red tape and regulations. 67 percent of Idahoans supported work promotion programs that help Idahoans better their lives. Only 22 percent of Idahoans supported a costly, mandatory work requirement. Voters don’t want to see Idahoans lose access to critical medications because of red tape.

Meanwhile, the one thing the Legislature needed to do — appropriate funding for the state’s 10 percent match — seems to be moving along without any controversy. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee set the overall Medicaid budget for FY2020, and included $9 million in General Fund and another $10 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to cover the state’s share of Medicaid expansion.

There’s a reason every Idaho Hospital supported Proposition 2 and why we now push for implementation without costly, bureaucratic restriction that limit enrollment or create additional barriers to coverage.

The people have spoken — twice — and said Medicaid expansion is good medicine for Idahoans!

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Brian Whitlock is the president and CEO of the Idaho Hospital Association.


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