Group rallies to expand Medicaid, insure thousands of uncovered Idahoans

Medicaid expansion might be a dead issue in the Legislature this year, but that didn’t stop a coalition of supporters from rallying on the Capitol steps Tuesday to press the case on behalf of 78,000 poor Idahoans who would gain coverage if expansion were approved.

The “Close the Gap” coalition cited the findings that prompted a governor-appointed work group to recommend the expansion: $173 million in annual savings to the state, $480 million in new revenue from economic activity, $1.1 billion in gross state product and 13,000 new jobs.

That’s in addition to extending Medicaid benefits to the so-called gap group of 78,000 and giving another 25,000 Idahoans the opportunity to gain coverage on the state health insurance exchange.

Chelle Gluch, who with her husband falls in that gap group, told the crowd how her husband’s medical expenses have left the couple bankrupt.

“Our income, despite working more than 60 hours per week, is meager – well below the federal poverty limit,” Gluch said. “Every one of my daycare clients falls into the coverage gap. These are single mothers with children who work.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has opposed expansion over lingering opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act and blocked any bill from being introduced this session.

Advocates said it is time to regroup.

“Step one is to take a breath, look at what happened and then figure out how do we remarshal support, reorganize,” said Stephen Weeg, board chair for the state health insurance exchange and a member of the governor’s work group. “It all makes good political sense, financial sense and human sense.”