State Politics

Public gets chance to speak on Idaho Medicaid expansion at hearing Wednesday

Supporters of Medicaid expansion to provide health benefits to 78,000 low-income Idahoans gathered in the state Capitol Thursday, March 17, 2016, ahead of a hearing by the House Health and Welfare committee.
Supporters of Medicaid expansion to provide health benefits to 78,000 low-income Idahoans gathered in the state Capitol Thursday, March 17, 2016, ahead of a hearing by the House Health and Welfare committee. bdentzer@idahostatesman.com

The legislative committee reviewing health care options for Idaho’s working poor convenes a daylong session in the Capitol Wednesday, including a two-hour period of public testimony.

Wednesday’s agenda features morning testimony from advocates on both sides of the debate over whether Idaho should expand Medicaid to cover the estimate 78,000 residents caught in a health coverage gap. Those residents earn too much to qualify for standard Medicaid health benefits, but not enough to qualify for subsidized coverage available on the state health insurance exchange.

At longstanding issue before the Legislature is whether to adopt some version of the expanded Medicaid program created under the 2010 Affordable Care Act to address the needs of people in the so-called gap population. After failing to take action last session, the Legislature empaneled a working group of lawmakers to review options in the inter-session period and make a policy recommendation to be acted upon next year.

In between morning and afternoon sessions Wednesday, advocates of expansion have scheduled a noon event to release a so-called “storybook” of hardships faced by Idahoans in the gap population. Announcing the event Tuesday, the group included remarks by Albion resident Dannielle Ryals, who was diagnosed with chronic endometriosis as a child but can’t afford necessary medication.

“I pray we close the gap soon because people are suffering and dying because of not being able to get health insurance,” Ryals said.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD

If you go

The Legislature’s working group on Healthcare Alternatives for Citizens below 100 percent of Poverty Level convenes at 9 a.m. in Room WW17 of the lower level of the state Capitol. Agenda

The hearing also will be streamed live.

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