Voters made it conscientiously clear in November that hardworking, low-income Idahoans deserve access to affordable and comprehensive health care coverage, and that includes adults, veterans, families with children, pregnant women and those close to retirement.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, was proud to fight for Medicaid expansion along with other health organizations as part of the Idahoans for Healthcare coalition. Idaho voters passed Proposition 2 with 61 percent approving, what turned out to be the biggest Medicaid expansion ballot victory in the country. More than 80 percent of Idaho counties voted in November in favor of Prop 2, which specifically called for the full, unmodified expansion of Medicaid.
Now it’s the Legislature’s responsibility to respond quickly and fully implement an unmodified Medicaid expansion program. In fact, now that lawmakers have convened, they should make it a 2019 New Year’s resolution.
An expeditious implementation is key. Delay tactics will only increase costs and prevent those in need from receiving care. Creating bureaucratic red tape and regulations could have unintended, costly consequences. Utah, which also saw Medicaid expanded via the ballot, expects to begin enrolling patients as early as April.
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ACS CAN Idaho looks forward to partnering with state lawmakers as well as Gov. Brad Little’s new administration to get the ball rolling. Appropriating funds and implementing an unmodified version of our state’s Medicaid program should be a top legislative priority. It would be tragic if our state’s leaders stand in the way of providing life-changing and lifesaving coverage to thousands of our friends, family and neighbors.
The benefits provided through Medicaid are critical in preventing cancer and catching the disease early before it advances and rates of survivorship decrease. In fact, the biggest determining factor whether someone survives after a cancer diagnosis is whether they have health insurance. Studies have shown that after a cancer diagnosis, those without insurance are more likely to die than those with insurance.
For too long, hardworking Idaho citizens have been unable to afford access to quality preventive screenings. With the passage of Prop 2, we take a big leap in saving lives as well as saving health care costs, because cancer caught early is cancer that is much easier and quicker to treat. That keeps loved ones alive, saves health care costs directly, gets people back to work, reduces sick days and makes for positive resulting economic impacts — to families and communities.
Legislators, please give 62,000 Idahoans access to affordable, adequate and accessible health care. Let’s keep people working, get people back to work and make access to health care work for all of us.
Luke Cavener is the ACS CAN Idaho government relations director.