Guest Opinions

Why are the politicians trying to take away your health care?

Nearly two-thirds of Idahoans voted for a clean Medicaid expansion program. The reasons are easy to understand: We bring $400 million in federal dollars back to Idaho, provide health care for tens of thousands of working Idahoans, create thousands of jobs in the process and shore up our rural hospitals. All told, the vote of 61 percent of Idahoans makes sense.

Unfortunately, the politicians don’t think you know what you voted for.

Never mind that Medicaid expansion has been debated for the last six years. Never mind that 70 percent of the country has adopted Medicaid expansion. Despite that, the politicians voted to create a multimillion-dollar bureaucracy designed to kick thousands of Idahoans off health care, send them to emergency rooms, which you pay for with your property taxes, and prioritize paperwork over strong communities.

Thankfully, you have a say in all of this.

The Idaho State Department of Health and Welfare just announced a 30-day public comment period where you can weigh in on whether Idahoans should be denied health care because they don’t fill out paperwork correctly.

Government officials are required, by law, to consider your comments. If they don’t, they lose. A federal judge has ruled on this issue three times on similar schemes in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. In those states, tens of thousands of people lost health care coverage because of paperwork regimes. If we apply those losses to Idaho, more than 26,000 Idahoans could lose health care.

But it’s not a done deal. Your voice matters. During the 2019 legislative session, the politicians in Boise tacked on restrictions to Medicaid expansion, requiring people to report their work hours. The vast majority of Idaho’s Medicaid expansion recipients already work. The issue is whether they report those hours. In other words, the difference between receiving affordable and effective health care depends on whether they fill out paperwork.

We understand the word “paperwork” may be euphemistic. Most of the reporting will likely be done online. Unfortunately, Idaho ranks 41st in the nation in terms of internet access. That’s probably why Gov. Brad Little created a Broadband Internet Task Force for “improving connectivity and infrastructure throughout the state.”

Guess who suffers the most from bad internet access in Idaho? Rural and poor communities — the very same people who will benefit from Medicaid expansion. Our own governor admits that thousands of Idahoans lack the internet infrastructure needed to meet the paperwork restrictions passed by your legislators. That’s why Idaho’s scheme should never get off the ground.

Reclaim Idaho is dedicated to protecting what you voted for. You didn’t approve a multimillion-dollar bureaucracy that kicks people into our state’s expensive emergency rooms. You voted for health care, jobs and security. The politicians are trying to take that away, but you don’t have to take it.

In the 10 minutes it takes you to write a comment, you can make a lifetime difference for thousands of Idaho families. Make sure the politicians hear you.

Luke Mayville is the co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, and Rebecca Schroeder is the executive director of Reclaim Idaho.