The Idaho House, 62-6, has passed legislation that would provide dental coverage to adult participants in the Medicaid program who live with disabilities or "special health needs."
"This bill extends services to patients who are already receiving Medicaid," testified House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, as he debated in favor of the bill. House Bill 395 would restore dental service benefits that had existed previously, but were cut during the 2011 legislative session.
Idaho’s Legislative Services Office said the legislation would cost an extra $1,418,100 to the state general bund, but the expanded costs are accounted for in the Medicaid budget proposal for fiscal year 2015.
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, read directly from portions of the bill, and asked Rusche “what, exactly, are ‘special health needs?’”
Rusche replied that this terminology specifies a broad category of medical conditions.
Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, opposed the bill: “I understand why we would want to do this, but given the level of our nation’s debt, I do not believe it is the right thing.”
Rusche responded that the U.S. federal debt would not increase or decrease based on whether the bill becomes law.
Begun in 1965, the Medicaid program provides certain health care services to individuals and families with low incomes and limited resources. But, under the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Obamacare, expansion of Medicaid is now left as an elective choice for each individual state.
Gov. Butch Otter, in his annual State of the State address, said he did not wish to follow the Obama administration’s desire that Idaho relax eligibility requirements for the Medicaid program. Despite the governor’s disinterest in expanding Medicaid eligibility, within Otter’s proposed state budget is a request for increased spending both of federal and state tax dollars to accommodate more Medicaid welfare recipients who qualify under current eligibility requirements.
Noting that the governor anticipates 35,000 more Medicaid recipients within the next few years, members of his budget staff are calling for an additional $5 million to spend as a means of accommodating an anticipated first wave of 15,000 new Medicaid recipients.
Otter’s administration refers to the estimated spike in Medicaid demand as the “woodwork effect,” a phenomenon that is expected to result from people applying for health insurance benefits through Obamacare health insurance exchanges and discovering in the process that they actually qualify for the welfare benefit.
Otter’s staff assumes that there are many Idahoans who already qualify for Medicaid under current eligibility standards, but are unaware that they qualify. Such people are said to come “out of the woodwork” when they become aware that they qualify for the welfare benefit.