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House Health and Welfare panel delays vote on fee increase for Medicaid program

House Health and Welfare panel delays vote on fee increase for Medicaid program

Dustin Hurst
February 3, 2010
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February 3, 2010

Fee increases for parents of severely disabled children who receive help from Medicaid will have to wait to find out if they will be asked to pay more for the medical services their child receives.  House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, decided the panel will wait for further information on the measure from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The program, initiated during the Reagan administration, allows severely disabled children to remain in their homes and receive critical medical and therapeutic services which are typically paid for by the state.  Idaho has 2,150 children on the program, which costs the state about $37 million each year.

The plan before the committee was developed in light of direction set by the 2009 Legislature, which called on the department to look areas to cut costs.  The changes call for higher income parents to pay up to 5 percent of their income as part of their enrollment in the program.  That would mean a family of four making $10,000 a month would be required to pay $300 as a monthly fee to the state.  Families who also pay into a private insurance program would have their amount reduced by 25 percent.  Families with lower incomes would be required to pay amounts proportional to their level above federal poverty guidelines.

Lawmakers are almost evenly split on the issue.  The panel voted 9-7 Thursday to not accept the fee increases, but due to procedural rules, the committee had to decide to accept or reject the fee hikes in its meeting Friday morning.  The effort to accept the fee increases was led by Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, who sees the measure as a way to help balance the budget.  The move is opposed by Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who believes fiscal solvency in the state shouldn't come "on the backs of the disabled."

Chairman Block will decide when the issue is brought before the committee again.  In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, said the committee is waiting for the department to list the income levels of parents of program participants before proceeding.

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