State Politics

Idaho Supreme Court will hear challenge to Medicaid expansion

The Idaho Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging the legality of Medicaid expansion, which was approved by voters in November with more than 60 percent of the vote.

That’s according to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the group leading the challenge. Its attorney, Bryan Smith, shared the court’s decision in a news release late Monday.

That the court decided to take the case without having it pass through a lower court “indicates that the Idaho Supreme Court believes that the case presents a substantial question regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 2 that the court wants to address as soon as possible,” Smith said in the news release.

But Sara Thomas, administrative director of the courts, said the case is proceeding normally through the court.

“The court hearing this case is not a statement of the merits of this case,” she said.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has been the loudest opponent of Proposition 2, which expands Medicaid’s coverage of low-income and childless adults. It brought the suit to the Supreme Court in November.

Smith said the court plans to hear oral arguments Jan. 29. Thomas said that there is no clear date for when the court is expected to have a decision.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has called Proposition 2 “terrible public policy” and said it was “poorly worded and likely unconstitutional,” the Statesman previously reported. The group argues that the proposition affords too much control to the federal government and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The libertarian think tank is a member of the State Policy Network, an organization of think tanks backed by the billionaire Koch brothers that advocate for free-market principles and deregulation.

Groups connected to the State Policy Network have issued challenges to Medicaid expansion via the high courts in other states. In 2017, the Goldwater Institute backed GOP lawmakers in their lawsuit to block the Arizona Legislature’s expansion of Medicaid. That case hinged on the constitutionality of a hospital assessment that helped pay to cover more individuals, but ultimately the Arizona Supreme Court rejected the challenge.