State Politics

Idaho health care proposal ‘dead’ after vote against funding bill

Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, speaks on the proposed Idaho Primary Care Access Program in early January. With him from left are Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley; Health & Welfare Department Director Richard Armstrong, and Gov. Butch Otter. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, speaks on the proposed Idaho Primary Care Access Program in early January. With him from left are Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley; Health & Welfare Department Director Richard Armstrong, and Gov. Butch Otter. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger) AP

A proposed primary health care plan to help 78,000 of Idaho’s uninsured get subsidized doctor care failed to win support in a House committee Monday, and its leading House sponsor declared the plan dead for this session.

The House State Affairs committee’s vote to block introduction of a funding bill for the proposed Primary Care Access Program was seen as a test of legislative support. The committee voted 8-6 against introduction.

“I think we found out what support there was for the program,” said Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, the chairman of the House Health & Welfare committee, who brought the funding bill before the committee. “I suspect PCAP is dead.”

Included in Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed state budget for next year, the PCAP plan was seen as a workaround to opposition within the Legislature to expanding Medicaid, an option to states under the federal Affordable Care Act. While not an insurance program, PCAP would subsidize basic doctor visits for the 78,000 Idahoans who currently cannot get health coverage because they don’t meet income requirements for either Medicaid or subsidized health insurance under the state health insurance exchange.

The program was expected to cost $30 million annually. The bill before State Affairs Monday proposed diverting a portion of the $25 million in tobacco settlement money the state receives each year to help fund PCAP.

Opposition came both from legislators who oppose any expansion of entitlement programs as well as Democratic lawmakers who hold out support for expanding Medicaid.

Opponents also said the complete funding picture for PCAP has not been determined and they opposed a piecemeal approach.

“When you’re voting on a major piece of legislation like PCAP, it’s got to be very airtight,’ Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, the House assistant majority leader. “I don’t think it’s dead, but (supporters) need to have a concrete plan on what it’s going to look like, who it’s going to take care of, and how much it’s going to cost.”

Wood said: “We needed to know where the support was and where the support wasn’t, and now we know. Everybody wonders why we don’t do Medicaid expansion. Well, there’s no support for Medicaid expansion, and there doesn’t seem to be much support at all for the PCAP program.”

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor’s office had no immediate comment on the committee’s action.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD

How committee members voted

Introduction of a bill for partial funding of the proposed Primary Care Access Program was blocked by the House State Affairs committee by an 8-6 vote. Here’s how committee members voted:

In favor of introduction (6): Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, committee chairman; Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs; Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise; Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.

Opposed (8): Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa; Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; Rep. Kathy Simms, R-Coeur d’Alene; Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens; Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian; Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello; Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer.

Absent (3): Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder; Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise.

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