Last year, citing slumping revenues due to a down economy and expressing a desire to make Idaho’s budget more sustainable, lawmakers passed a $35 million cut to the Medicaid program.
With an improved economic forecast and some feedback on cuts now available, Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, who pushed the reduction bill last year, is backing legislation to reverse some of them.
As part of the cuts, services across the Medicaid program were reduced or cut altogether. Preventative dental services for all adults, for example, were removed from the state’s offerings. Chiropractic treatments, on the other hand, were reduced.
McGeachin’s new bill would reinstate dental services, but only for the most needy and impoverished. The preventative services would cover only aged and disabled populations, leaving any adult Medicaid recipients who don’t qualify under those status categories without coverage.
Medicaid covers all dental services for children, as well as emergency procedures for adults.
Some therapeutic services would be restored under the plan, too. As an unintended consequence of the cuts, McGeachin says some recipients who have multiple diagnoses were required to choose between some of the corresponding necessary services. That, too, would be reversed under her new bill.
The bill will cost Idaho $1.5 million next year, money which Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, said is already in the Medicaid budget for next year, slated to be set on Friday. Wood sits on the health and welfare and budget committees in the House.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, praised McGeachin, though he tempered it with a small warning. “It’s a big issue,” Rusche said, thanking McGeachin for working with stakeholders to make the changes. “We still have a ways to go, but it’s a great effort and we appreciate it.”
The bill cleared the committee with unanimous support and now heads to the House floor.
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