Bell supports proposed basic health plan
Rep. Maxine Bell, co-chair of the legislative committee that writes the state budget, says she supports the proposed state-funded basic health care program for low-income residents to be funded by cigarette and tobacco taxes.
“We can do that and I will do it, because there is a nexus to my way of thinking between tobocco tax and (health care),” Bell, R-Jerome, said Wednesday.
The proposal is a state-sponsored plan to provide basic preventive health care services to the 78,000 low-income Idahoans who don’t qualify for Medicaid or for subsidized health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act. The proposal would draw about $32 million from cigarette and tobacco taxes to pay for doctor visits, but would not cover emergency or ongoing care or prescriptions.
“They keep telling me it’s the first step. Well that’s good, because it’s not really adequate,” Bell said. “It’s not (coverage for) a broken arm, and it may not even be a prescription. But we can do that.”
The proposal is expected to come before legislators in the coming weeks.
Tobacco tax is how much?
We got a question this morning about the state tobacco tax that would be put toward a proposed state health plan for low-income Idahoans. Isn’t the tax 40 percent of the wholesale tobacco price, not 35 percent, as referenced under the governor’s proposal?
The answer is yes. There is a separate section of state code, approved in 1994, that adds an additional five percent tax on tobacco. The proceeds of that tax are split 50-50 between public school safety programs such as substance abuse prevention and juvenile probation programs. That part of the tax will continue to fund those programs.
The balance of the tobacco tax, which goes into the state general fund, will go to help fund the proposed $32 million basic health plan. It was enacted in 1972. The projected revenue this year is about $11.2 million. The balance of the funding, $21.2 million, is proposed to come from the 57-cents-a-pack cigarette tax.