Editorials

This time, Idaho’s Medicaid gap panel must turn talk to policy

Health and Welfare official addresses Medicaid committee

Idaho Health and Welfare chief Dick Armstrong informs a legislative committee studying the gap population about who makes up the 78,000 in the 'Gap': among them are former prisoners who need followup health care and Idaho enrollees in the Suppleme
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Idaho Health and Welfare chief Dick Armstrong informs a legislative committee studying the gap population about who makes up the 78,000 in the 'Gap': among them are former prisoners who need followup health care and Idaho enrollees in the Suppleme

The bad news came last April when the Idaho Legislature walked away from its 2016 session without hammering out a solution to assist the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who face today and tomorrow without health insurance. The good news is that members of the Legislature — in the form of the bipartisan Healthcare Alternatives For Citizens Below 100 Percent of Poverty Level committee, made up of Idaho House and Senate representatives — is back talking about care for our neighbors who don’t make enough money to enroll in the Your Health Idaho exchange, and who make too much to benefit from coverage under Medicaid.

There is also uncertain news wrapped up in a big question: Can this body move beyond the stalemate of the last several years and provide policy to get health care to the Medicaid gap population? We think it can. In fact, it must.

The numbers just don’t add up to keep doing what we are doing — delivering health care to people in a crisis through emergency rooms and such. It costs more than it would if Idaho decided to expand Medicaid and gain access to federal money, which is what 31 other states have done. Or, in lieu of that, fashion a more customized plan by taking advantage of waiver options.

We are concerned about some things that came up as the Wednesday meeting came to a close, such as hedging bets with plans that assume the Affordable Care Act might not be in force in January when a new president and Congress take office.

Backup or alternative plans are worth discussion, but no one is going to unravel the ACA overnight. And besides, Idaho should want to care for those 78,000 people no matter what happens on Election Day.

We were encouraged the committee wants to examine what other states have done, because it makes sense to take advantage of things that worked and avoid those that didn’t

We are also encouraged by something Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-Inkom, said near the close of the session: This committee’s work can’t be “data rich and policy poor.”

He encourages his colleagues to focus, move quickly, act and come to a conclusion. We couldn’t agree more. The people in the gap are depending on it.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@ idahostatesman.com.

Contact us if you are in the gap

The Idaho interim committee called Healthcare Alternatives For Citizens Below 100 Percent of Poverty Level met for the first time Wednesday and plans to meet again in a couple of weeks.

The committee is charged with coming up with a policy and recommending it to the full Legislature.

We think one of the problems this initiative has had being successful with legislators is there is not much of a face to the 78,000 Idahoans who find themselves in this situation. If you are in the gap, we would like to hear from you.

Contact Robert Ehlert at rehlert@idahostatesman.com, leave a phone message at (208) 377-6437 or communicate with us via our Letters to the Editor online templates and include IdahoGap at the top. You can also contact us through social media channels such as idahostatesman.com/facebook or one of our Twitter accounts (we’ll be using the hashtags #idleg and #idahogap).

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