Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, will lead a 10-member legislative work group charged with identifying health care coverage options for Idahoans in the coverage gap created by Obamacare.
The panel will meet through the summer to devise policy recommendations for the 2017 Legislature, which kicks off the second week of January next year.
Hagedorn will lead the Senate members: Sens. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon and Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise.
Loertscher will lead the House appointees: Reps. Fred Wood, R-Burley, Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and Sue Chew, D-Boise.
Brian Whitlock, president of the Idaho Hospital Association, praised the appointments in a press release distributed by Close the Gap Idaho, a pro-Obamacare expansion political front group.
“Close the Gap Idaho is here to support the workgroup in its efforts and we look forward to the opportunity to address this issue once and for all with a complete, Idaho-based solution to the coverage gap,” Whitlock said in the prepared statement.
The 2016 Legislature created the work group after lawmakers declined to address the gap issue that session, despite a last-ditch effort Hagedorn led.
The Meridian senator hijacked a House bill that would have provided $10 million to community health centers for services and research. Hagedorn’s amendment to that bill would have opened the door to Obamacare expansion by giving the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to pursue a special waiver from the federal government.
If the federal government were to grant a waiver for Idaho, the state would have limited authority to create a more flexible Medicaid program.
Hagedorn’s maneuver cost community health clinics the $10 million because the House declined to take up the bill on the final day of the 2016 session.
The House also torpedoed a bill to create a direct primary-care coverage program for Idahoans who fall into the Obamacare-created gap. That program would have used general fund revenues and redirected tobacco and cigarette tax money to fund coverage, but the bill didn’t come with a full, long-term funding plan, which doomed the proposal in the the House State Affairs Committee.
Boyle, a longtime opponent of Obamacare expansion, told IdahoReporter.com’s she’s OK with at least half of the committee make-up.
“I’m happy with the House members,” she said Monday.
Boyle declined to comment on the Senate make-up.
She stated she’s excited to examine health-care options to better meet the needs of her constituents. Boyle noted her district is home to the largest portion of uninsured Idahoans in the state.