With about one-sixth of the cash reported by GOP Gov. Butch Otter as of May 4, Democrat A.J. Balukoff is urging supporters to help him complete his fund-raising goal for the Sunshine reporting period ending Friday.
Both candidates are fresh off primary wins last week, but the two-term governor's financial advantage looms as a significant factor in November's general election.
Otter's big advantage was a $708,000 balance at the end of 2013. Balukoff, who announced his candidacy in December, had just $38,000 at the end of 2013.
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In fund-raising appeals in recent days, Balukoff is stressing Otter's failure to recommend adding federally-funded Medicaid coverage for about 77,000 Idahoans as a key difference between the two rivals. Balukoff says the Medicaid expansion would "save an estimated 600 lives every year."
"This is a pivotal moment in Idaho history," Balukoff said in the pitch for contributions. "We can choose business as usual with Gov. Otter, turn our heads and ignore Idahoans that are in the most need, or we can join together, be courageous, and do the right thing together, for everyone."
In a news release last week, Balukoff said, "The idea of expanding affordable health-insurance coverage to low-income, working Idahoans can get lost in the haze of political rhetoric — until you listen to the heartbreaking stories of people who have to go without health insurance. Then remind yourself that Gov. Otter's failure to show leadership on this issue is costing Idaho a fortune."
Otter delayed any recommendation on expanding Medicaid during the 2014 legislative session, focusing on defending his 2013 enactment of the state-run Your Health Idaho insurance exchange and his primary challenge from Sen. Russ Fulcher, an exchange opponent. Otter won that contest last week with 51 percent of the vote. Otter has said he'll consider some form of Medicaid expansion in 2015, but he hasn't been specific.
Last week's news release and Thursday's fundraising email follow:
BALUKOFF CALLS FOR OTTER TO EXPAND MEDICAID FOR IDAHOANS NOW
BOISE, Idaho – A.J. Balukoff, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, today called on Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter to expand Medicaid. The expansion would provide health insurance to approximately 77,000 Idahoans, save an estimated 600 lives every year.
“The idea of expanding affordable health-insurance coverage to low-income, working Idahoans can get lost in the haze of political rhetoric—until you listen to the heartbreaking stories of people who have to go without health insurance” Balukoff said. “Then remind yourself that Gov. Otter’s failure to show leadership on this issue is costing Idaho a fortune.”
“The expansion would pay 90 percent of the cost if our state will insure, through Medicaid, families earning up to $26,000 per year.” Balukoff said. “Gov. Otter has failed to show leadership on an issue that would save $1 billion, boost the state economy, and improve the health and wellbeing of 77,000 Idahoans.”
“When you’re the state’s chief executive, once in a while, you actually get to help regular people. If you’re not going to do that when you get the chance, what’s the use of being governor?” Balukoff said.
Balukoff shared the story of Jamie Johnson, an Idahoan who falls into the so-called “Medicaid gap” and had to visit an emergency room for her gallbladder. "That bill came to $3,400. She has neck and back problems, but without insurance, she can’t afford the $6,000 MRI her doctor is recommending. So she lives with pain.”
Balukoff also shared comments his facebook page has received from people who fall into the Medicaid gap. For the full blog post click here .Fund-raising email:
A.J. called on Gov. Otter to choose the people of Idaho over playing politics by looking out for Idahoans who are most in need. Please, stand with him today. We've got our work cut-out for us. We can't do it without you. Our next filing deadline is midnight tomorrow. We need to raise $2,500 by the midnight deadline.
Time is running out! Will you help us today?
Best, Marie Hattaway, Campaign Manager
77,000 of the lowest-income Idahoans don’t have health insurance—and they’re not eligible to get it either, because Governor Otter chose to play politics rather than looking out for the needs of working Idahoans and their families. That decision could cost Idahoans $1 billion over the next ten years.
>> I’ll be a governor who does the right thing for all Idahoans. When I’m elected, it won’t be on the backs of the most vulnerable Idahoans. But you have to act now. Please make a contribution to my campaign of $25, $50, $100 or $250 today.
Refusing to expand Medicaid for Idahoans who fall into the gap means 77,000 Idaho families go to an emergency room rather than a family doctor. It means they typically get emergency care rather than preventative and it means the cost of their care inflates the cost of everyone’s care. It's just bad fiscal policy.
Chip in $25, $50, $100, or $250 today. It goes a long way. Together, we’ll take a broken system that excludes Idahoans who are most in need and expand it so that it works for everyone—that’s what good governing is all about.
This is a pivotal moment in Idaho history. We can choose business as usual with Gov. Otter, turn our heads and ignore Idahoans that are in the most need, or we can join together, be courageous, and do the right thing together, for everyone.
Make no mistake about it, the differences between me and Gov. Otter are glaring. I’ll be the governor elected by the people, who works hard, tells the truth and puts all Idahoans first--by expanding Medicaid.
P.S. If you prefer to mail in a check, you can do so by mailing to A.J. Balukoff for Idaho, and mailing to P.O. Box 2273. Thank you for your support!