Panel: Medicaid should be expanded
BOISE — Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature should broaden Idaho’s Medicaid program to cover more than 100,000 additional low-income residents, but insist on tying the expansion to a benefit program that improves care, boosts personal accountability and reduces costs.
That was Friday’s unanimous recommendation from a 15-person panel that’s met since early summer to analyze costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid eligibility to cover people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. It’s a key provision of President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul, but one the U.S. Supreme Court left up to states to decide.
A Seattle-based actuarial firm told the group before it voted Friday that Idaho will save $6.5 million through 2024 if it expands Medicaid eligibility — and suffer costs of $284 million by rejecting it.
That’s because nearly all of the costs of covering people newly eligible for Medicaid — mainly lowincome adults without children at home — would be borne by the federal government.
Rejecting expansion, by contrast, would mean state and county property taxpayers would likely simply continue funding Idaho’s existing Catastrophic Health Care program that’s due to run $61 million in 2014 to cover the indigent population’s medical bills.
“The county indigent program has run its course,” said Dan Chadwick, a lobbyist for the Idaho Association of Counties and a panelist. “It does not work. It’s become administratively and financially unsustainable.”
The group’s members, including doctors, hospital and medical association lobbyists, and representatives from Idaho businesses, said any expansion of Medicaid can’t be merely a blank check to continue the programs of the past.
Rather, it should be tied to creating a benefit program for the newly covered that promotes personal responsibility — and reworks a medical culture where low-income patients and medical providers have too few incentives to reduce costs, improve care and boost the health of the working poor.
“If we don’t do this, we do cripple Idaho, in many ways,” said Ted Epperly, a Boise medical doctor and director of the Family Medicine Residency Program in Idaho
Finally, the state uses its collective head. The ACA is here and it's here to stay, so let's get busy and do the work it requires to institute the thing and get it done rather than having the Fed come in and do it for us. I honestly thought that might happen, ie., the Fed having to step in and do what the idiotic state government wouldn't. Butchie thought he could fight the tide of peope who want a National Healthcare Act to help take care of the uninsured and cut down on the emergency room attendees with colds and flu. It's about time.
Kudos to ol' Butchie. I hate his politics, but he came through when he absolutely, positively, categorically, decidedly, definitely, come hell or high water had to. Applause, Applause to our stout hearted governor.