Yesterday, the Idaho House of Representatives declined to open the door to Medicaid expansion. Today, the Idaho Senate introduced amended legislation to keep the pathway wide open.
The Senate, on a 27-to-8 vote this afternoon, approved an amended House Bill 644 to give $10.4 million to Idaho health centers for data collection projects and care for low-income state residents.
The unamended bill, approved by the House Wednesday, stopped there. But Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, amended the measure Thursday morning, and inserted language to allow the state to negotiate Medicaid expansion with the federal government.
Hagedorn’s language would ask the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to explore a Medicaid waiver to allow the state to only cover a portion of the projected 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the so-called “gap.” The gap is primarily comprised of single adults who earn too much to participate in Medicaid, but not enough to bring home tax credits through Idaho’s Obamacare exchange.
Idahoans in the so-called gap also lack employer-sponsored health coverage.
Hagedorn told his colleagues during floor debate that the bill isn’t the state’s best option, but that it made the best of a bad situation.
Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, criticized the plan for delaying explicit action to help Idahoans without health coverage. Without endorsing Medicaid expansion, Guthrie expressed his distaste for the plan.
“We truly need to either fish or cut bait,” Guthrie said.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, suggested the plan would lead to a loss of liberty for Idahoans and Americans alike, which he said is not what the country’s founders intended.
“Not one of those who left the bloody tracks in the snow at Valley Forge did so for free health care,” he said.
He reminded the body that the U.S. Constitution is limited in scope.
“There is no right to health care,” Rice said. “It doesn’t exist.”
Still, Rice supported the bill.
Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said while he generally opposes federal health-care schemes, he doesn’t believe this qualifies as that.
“I oppose Medicaid expansion,” Lakey said. “But I don’t look at this as Medicaid expansion.”
He said the bill’s language provides for more accountability and oversight than traditional Medicaid, which swayed his vote.
Thanks to Hagedorn’s amendment, the House needs to vote on the bill again before it heads to the governor’s desk. That vote will likely come later today as lawmakers attempt to conclude their work for the year.
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