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Medicaid expansion bill to receive House hearing; CAT fund legislation revived

Medicaid expansion bill to receive House hearing; CAT fund legislation revived

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
January 31, 2014
[post_thumbnail]Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, does not believe Medicaid expansion has a chance of passage by the 2014 Legislature.

A House committee will hear a legislative proposal seeking to expand the federal Medicaid welfare program in Idaho. Additionally, legislation is under way that could dramatically alter how “catastrophic care” public health care services are administered across the state.

However, a key committee chairman, Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said “I hope not” when asked if Medicaid expansion might be on the docket in his committee.

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, confirmed that a Medicaid expansion proposal will receive a hearing in his committee. “Rep. Rusche’s Medicaid bill will receive a print hearing in our committee,” he said, referring to House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston.

Heider, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, in addition to his “I hope not” comment, added “I think it’s been determined that we are not pursuing Medicaid expansion this year. The governor has said as much. I have said so as well.”

Of Rusche’s legislative proposal, Heider said “I doubt that the bill will get out of committee. And if it does get out of committee, I doubt that it would pass on the House floor. So I just don’t think we’ll be seeing a House Medicaid expansion bill anywhere in the Senate.”

Heider did say, however, that Rusche would be allowed to make a presentation to the Senate committee if he so chooses. “If Rep. Rusche wants to present the concept of his bill to our committee and tell us some things about it, then we would certainly extend to him that courtesy. But I do not believe there is interest in Medicaid expansion in our committee or anywhere in the Senate for that matter.”

In addition to the Medicaid expansion proposal, Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, told IdahoReporter.com that he’s preparing to revive legislation that he proposed last year that would eliminate the state’s “catastrophic care” (CAT) fund program, replacing it with Medicaid.

“We’re making some significant language changes, but we’re definitely working on bringing it back,” Loertscher said.

Last year Loertscher proposed two bills; one sought to shut down the CAT fund system, which provides health care services for persons in dire circumstances funded with both state tax revenues and local property taxes, while the other proposal sought to loosen eligibility requirements for Medicaid. The goal was to essentially replace the CAT fund program with Medicaid services.

“In my mind, we don’t have to do both of these at the same time,” Loertscher said, noting Rusche’s Medicaid expansion bill. “Even if Medicaid expansion didn’t pass this year, we could still structure the CAT fund bill so it delayed the changes to the fund, or spaced them out over time. We are working on this.”

Begun in 1965, the Medicaid program provides certain health care services to individuals and families with low incomes and limited resources.

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