Guest Opinions

Health coverage solution paramount for Idaho, gap population

Closing the health coverage gap in Idaho would have positive affects for all Idahoans. Our current system is weakening our communities. We can strengthen our communities with a compete solution created just for Idaho that provides comprehensive health coverage. This is a simple matter of keeping our neighbors and communities safe and healthy.

As a union member, I am not in the gap. I have good health insurance for my entire family provided by my union. But the gap does affect my family and the community I live in. My tax dollars are being wasted paying for an inefficient system that leaves 78,000 Idahoans without insurance. People often put off going to the doctor if they don’t have insurance, preventing them from getting the care that they need which leads to even more expensive emergency room visits. This, of course, costs taxpayers in the long run because we pay for this care through the county indigent and state catastrophe funds.

Creating access to health care for the 78,000 Idahoans who fall into the gap will result in healthier workers, fewer sick days and a more productive workforce. Closing the gap is one simple way to grow the economy in Idaho. Hundreds of millions of the federal tax dollars we have already paid would come back to Idaho; our tax dollars will simply continue to fund health care programs in other states if we do nothing. A complete solution to the coverage gap creates a more efficient and cost-effective health system in Idaho and spends our tax dollars wisely.

It is estimated that 15,000 jobs in the health care industry would be generated if a full solution for Idaho were to be put into place. Members of the Idaho Legislature often claim to be “business friendly” and “job creators.” Creating a solution for the 78,000 who have fallen into the gap seems like a win/win for everyone in Idaho, it would stimulate Idaho’s economy and ensure all Idahoan’s have affordable health care.

Every year that Idaho fails to act to close the coverage gap costs the state millions in program savings. Failure to close the gap in 2016 cost Idaho $18 million. Idaho simply can’t afford to keep hemorrhaging funds that could be allocated to help hard working Idahoans. Idaho unions have placed a high priority on ensuring that members have health care coverage as part of the total compensation of employment. However, there are many circumstances where Idahoans are not afforded the security of having this benefit.

In the months leading up to the election in November, be sure to ask Idaho legislative candidates what they plan to do to more effectively manage our tax dollars and provide a complete Idaho solution to Idaho’s health care coverage gap crisis. They are the ones making these decisions that affect us all; don’t let our lawmakers hold us back any longer.

Aaron White is Idaho state AFL-CIO president.