Boise Mayor David Bieter took the rare step this week of writing an open letter to both of Idaho’s U.S. senators, urging them to oppose a health care bill that has stalled in the Senate.
Bieter repeated the most common criticism other opponents have leveled against the bill: the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction it would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured.
Bieter localized other features of the Senate’s health care proposal. He raised concern about how the bill’s proposed Medicaid cuts would affect children in Ada County, one-third of whom are recipients of Medicaid money. Bieter also took issue with the bill’s cuts to behavioral health and substance-abuse treatment funding, which he said would exacerbate a “burgeoning opioid epidemic” that is taxing local law enforcement agencies.
Finally, Bieter worried about how the bill would affect seniors’ medical bills.
“Cuts to Medicaid will impact seniors who worked their whole lives to pay into a system that would take care of them in their old age,” Bieter’s letter reads.
The last time Bieter wrote a formal, open letter of this type was in 2014, when he encouraged Idaho’s congressional delegation to oppose the retiring of the U.S. Air Force’s A-10 attack planes, spokesman Mike Journee said. A wing of A-10s operates out of Gowen Field, which shares the Boise Airport’s runway.
Here is the full text of Bieter’s letter, which was dated June 27:
Senator Mike Crapo
Senator Jim Risch
Thank you for the work you do on behalf of Idaho and for the productive relationship you both have with the city of Boise on many issues of mutual concern. I rarely write to you about issues of a more general nature; I reserve these types of communications for issues that are vital to Boiseans now and in the future.
With the release of the Senate health care bill, I find it imperative that I write to you with my concerns.
Like you, I believe that health care reforms need to be put in place to ensure affordability and coverage for all Americans. However, I am deeply troubled by the features of this bill, starting with the number of persons who will lose coverage. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 22 million more Americans will be uninsured based on this legislation.
Moreover, the bill will dramatically affect Boise citizens:
▪ 33 percent of children in Ada County utilize Medicaid funds. These are children with disabilities and children of working families. The proposed cuts to Medicaid will put their care at risk and will ultimately threaten their long-term prospects to be productive, healthy citizens
▪ The Boise Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies are already on the front lines of a burgeoning opioid epidemic. Cuts to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment services will further exacerbate this crisis and put our police officers and community members at risk. The proposed funding pales in comparison with current levels and what could be achieved with Medicaid expansion in our state.
▪ Seniors in our community will also be affected. Under the Senate bill, the tax credits would cover a smaller percentage of medical costs. These tax credits would decrease as a person ages, meaning older adults would have to spend a higher percentage of their incomes on health insurance premiums. Moreover, Medicaid currently covers costs for long-term care. Cuts to Medicaid will impact seniors who worked their whole lives to pay into a system that would take care of them in their old age.
I strongly urge you to oppose this legislation in its current form. Boise's citizens are counting on effective, fair and thoughtful health care policies that will positively impact all of our community while strengthening our economy through a balanced approach.
As always, thank you for your service to our state.
David H. Bieter