Robert Ehlert: Medicaid expansion rates debate

rehlert@idahostatesman.comJanuary 8, 2014 

Robert Ehlert

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Though Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State speech Monday was only roughly 34 minutes in duration, it touched on dozens of topics — a rate of nearly one per minute.

Medicaid expansion, “rainy day” savings accounts, water, wolves and the workforce were among the sampling of subjects that he spent time on — and, in some cases, agreed to spend money on.

Regarding Medicaid, that appears to be a case of refusing to accept money. The federal government is offering to foot about 90 percent of the bill that would allow an estimated 100,000 Idahoans ineligible for the Your Health Idaho Exchange to arrange for health care.

Otter wants to pass on the expansion option for another year even though there are credible arguments from Idaho Republicans and Democrats, business and labor, and the rich and the poor that this is a good idea for Idaho. Expanding Medicaid requires a leap of faith that the federal government will make good on its promise to pay the majority of the bill during the startup years.

I appreciate the governor’s hesitancy. As he said at a news conference Monday, the clumsy rollout and broken promises of the Affordable Care Act are fresh in his mind. Why engage in an even deeper relationship with the feds?

I still think the matter should be debated during this legislative session. I hope discussions result in a vote. There’s a primary May 20 and a general election Nov. 4. People deserve to know where candidates stand. I realize there are incumbents who are taking election heat because they voted to allow the Idaho health exchange. Why be fearful of defending a vote? If they did the right thing for constituents, they should stand by the decision.

The comments below, from our Facebook page, give an indication of how divided constituents are on some 2014 issues — especially Medicaid expansion.

John W. Haupt: Really need to take a better look at Medicaid. Many folks need a little help.

Sharon Nelson Miller: Sad to hear state employees will not get a raise. Last year it was 2 percent after a four-year dry spell. We going to have to wait another four years, especially since our health care is going up?

Sherry Thompson: We need someone who will seek the approval of the people, not Washington’s bullshooters.

Peggy Jordan: Expanding Medicaid would save Idaho millions of dollars, in addition to helping the people who need it most. Refusing to expand Medicaid for a political agenda (i.e. spite the president and punish the needy) is going to cost us taxpayers a fortune.

Tim Krahmer: I understand the desire of the masses to expand Medicaid, but if businesses in Idaho are for it, we need to stand against it. With PPACA, businesses want to shirk their responsibility for providing insurance by pushing their employees onto the public dime.

Chris Swenson: So, adding storage facilities and now the prisons will make (government) smaller?

Deborah Hudson: Need to reduce it versus not grow it. It is top heavy and too expensive.

Chris Oldenberg: Is anyone surprised that this millionaire puppet of the Simplot clan doesn’t understand the average Idahoan? He gets $5,000 a month to maintain his own home as governor, which he could easily afford on his own. Why do people in Idaho continue to elect people like Otter? Is it because they are a product of the Idaho educational system ?

Jeanne Williams: Expanding Medicaid is EXPANDING GOVERNMENT AND DEBT. People need to help themselves as much as they can.

James Kent: Jeanne, no it isn’t. You’re already paying for Medicaid expansion, just not in Idaho. If we expanded in Idaho, we could do away with the CAT fund and give property tax relief to county taxpayers paying for indigency care. By not expanding Medicaid in Idaho, the governor is making us pay twice. Not to mention the fact that he’s doing NOTHING for getting health care to those who need it, which includes thousands of veterans. See The Medicaid Option: Facts for Idaho.

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