Guest Opinions

Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do; studies show it’s the responsible thing to do

Republican lawmaker: Idaho’s Medicaid expansion is a ‘human issue’

Republican Idaho Rep. Christy Perry is co-chair of the Medicaid expansion initiative. She spoke July 6, 2018, as supporters delivered signatures to the Capitol to put the measure on the fall ballot.
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Republican Idaho Rep. Christy Perry is co-chair of the Medicaid expansion initiative. She spoke July 6, 2018, as supporters delivered signatures to the Capitol to put the measure on the fall ballot.

Rarely do life’s difficult decisions offer win-win scenarios. Even more infrequent is the chance to create a win-win-win outcome. That’s like a doctor telling you a steady diet of double-pepperoni pizza will lower your cholesterol and help you lose weight. Those win-win-win scenarios rarely happen.

But in November, Idaho voters will have the opportunity to create a true win-win-win for low-income Idahoans, Idaho taxpayers and our state’s economy. When voters consider expanding Medicaid to Idaho’s gap population (those who make too little for federal subsidies and too much for state assistance), it’s more than being compassionate to Idaho’s working poor. A recent Milliman study confirms that Idaho’s economy will be strengthened and taxpayers’ dollars will be used more efficiently and effectively.

On the compassionate side, closing the health care coverage gap means low-income Idahoans no longer must choose between providing food for their families or getting basic medical care. No longer will parents have to financially struggle over purchasing their child’s school supplies or refilling an asthma prescription.

On the economic side, the Milliman report projects that extending Medicaid coverage to low-income Idahoans will return an additional $4.6 billion of our federal tax dollars to Idaho over the 10-year period from 2020 to 2030. State funds already supporting health-related programs could be combined with those dollars to provide coverage to as many as 91,000 Idahoans instead of just the few thousand currently covered.

Volunteers Laurie Durocher and Paula Davis, right, gather signatures from registered voters in a Nampa neighborhood Saturday, April 7, 2018. They are looking for people in support of adding a Medicaid expansion initiative onto the November ballot.

Looking beyond the direct impact of an additional $4.6 billion in federal money into Idaho’s economy, the Idaho Hospital Association took the Milliman report one step further. We sought an independent analysis of the multiplying effect of infusing those federal tax dollars into communities throughout the state. University of Idaho regional economist Steven Peterson noted — consistent with other health care spending — that each of those federal tax dollars will generate $1.78 in overall economic activity and create thousands of jobs across all sectors of the economy.

Peterson also projects that those new jobs and the resulting economic activity from Medicaid expansion will produce nearly $21 million in additional tax revenue during the first year to state and local governments. That figure grows to nearly $30 million in additional tax revenue by 2030.

So while we may not be able to eat pizza every day, we can get a huge win on Nov. 6. A win for hardworking Idahoans, a win for taxpayers and a win for a stronger state economy. Visit Idahoans for Healthcare for more information about the win-win-win scenario Idaho can have in November by voting yes on Proposition 2.

Brian Whitlock is president and CEO of the Idaho Hospital Association.

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