Rep. Merrill Beyeler, R-Leadore, may want to have it both ways.
Beyeler, a first-term Republican, reportedly told a group of Challis Republicans this week that he does not support Medicaid expansion, an option available under Obamacare.
That’s according to Michael Barrett, who moderated a post-legislative session town hall meeting in Challis Monday night.
Barrett, the county GOP chairman, told IdahoReporter.com Thursday that Beyeler, when questioned by his Republican primary opponent, Dorothy Moon, signaled opposition to Medicaid expansion. However, Beyeler did note that he wants to seek a waiver to provide for some of the 78,000 Idahoans in the so-called coverage gap.
Trouble is, the waiver is also Medicaid expansion. Barrett suggested Beyler hid his true intent from the Challis GOP voters.
Medicaid expansion, in its pure form, would extend health-care coverage primarily to working-age, able-bodied adults without kids. These are Idahoans who don’t qualify for Medicaid now due to family status, and who make too little to secure subsidies through the state’s insurance exchange.
Full Medicaid expansion would cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Idaho plan that was floated this session would only cover people who earned up to 100 percent of the poverty level, or just less than $12,000 a year, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Service guidelines.
Beyeler is steadfast in his support of Medicaid expansion. He is one of five Republicans on the House Health and Welfare Committee who have committed to vote against every bill or rule that comes before the panel unless they have a chance to hold an up-or-down vote on legislation that would allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to seek a waiver to expand Medicaid to a portion of the gap population.
Barrett said Beyeler carefully chose his words at the town hall meeting as he explained his stance to attendees. “He never referred to it as partial Medicaid expansion, but only referred to it as the waiver,” Barrett explained.
The first-term Republican also omitted talk of his pledge to oppose the bills in the Health and Welfare Committee.
“He did not even bring that up,” said Barrett, who is familiar with the oppose-all-legislation pledge only because he read about McCammon Republican Rep. Kelley Packer leading the charge to seek the waiver.
Also left unmentioned: Beyeler’s support of a watered-down House resolution that called for a legislative interim committee to study the intricacies of seeking a Medicaid expansion waiver.
That resolution passed the House during the final legislative week in a last-ditch effort to open the door to Medicaid expansion in Idaho. The Senate, which sought but failed to authorize the waiver application, did not approve the plan to simply study the issue.
Beyeler did not return a call Thursday from IdahoReporter.com for comment. Moon, who Barrett said touted her opposition to Medicaid expansion on economic merits, also did not return a call.
Republican and Democrat voters will pick their legislative candidates on primary election day, set for May 17.