The holiday season heralds in that time of year when we give thanks, hold close our families, our friends and all that we value most in our lives. For many of us, it reminds us not only of what we have, but the duty we have to give back and lend a hand to those less fortunate. Many of us will donate our time or money helping our neighbors, and this will mean the world to so many. What we as individuals can’t give, however, is the peace of mind and security that having access to health care brings.
In our state, there are 78,000 people who work hard, provide for their families and contribute to the economy. Unfortunately, they make too much to qualify for our current Medicaid program and too little to qualify for subsidies though our state insurance exchange. They are one emergency room visit away from financial ruin. They are putting off simple medical procedures or medication because they cannot afford the treatment — increasing the likelihood of a simple, treatable medical issue turning into a serious and costly diagnosis down the road. While none of us as individuals can donate sufficient time or money to rectify this problem, together we can make a difference by asking our lawmakers to pass the Healthy Idaho Plan.
Passing the Healthy Idaho Plan would not only close our insurance gap and provide access to health care for so many working Idahoans, it would save taxpayers money. Studies commissioned by the state of Idaho have found that we would have seen $173 million in savings over 10 years if the Legislature had passed this measure during the 2015 legislative session. If our lawmakers pass this measure next session, we could still see savings of over $100 million to the state over the next nine years, improve the health of our residents, and save lives. While alternative plans fund a broken and costly system that will do little to solve the lack of comprehensive health care for so many people, the Healthy Idaho Plan would save money, spur economic growth and meaningfully impact the lives of Idaho families.
The Healthy Idaho Plan is good for Idaho’s businesses, our economy and its people. The governor’s own Medicaid working group, of which I was a member, has twice recommended adoption of this plan. Along with the Idaho Medical Association, Idaho industries, the medical community and the Idaho Association of Counties have endorsed this plan. There is ever growing support to close our coverage gap, but there is one thing missing — the political will of our elected officials to do the right thing and to put the well-being of our state, its economy and, most importantly, its people above ideology and fear of political retribution from party hardliners.
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When you spend time with your family this season and think about ways to give back to your community by volunteering your time or making a donation to a worthy cause, consider writing to your legislators and urge them to do the right thing and pass the Healthy Idaho Plan. Providing access to basic health care to nearly 78,000 working Idahoans is certainly a worthy cause.
Susie Pouliot is the CEO of the Idaho Medical Association, a statewide nonprofit organization providing representation and advocacy for over 2,700 physicians, residents, medical students, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.