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Otter administration introduces Medicaid alternative bill

Otter administration introduces Medicaid alternative bill

Dustin Hurst
February 11, 2016
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February 11, 2016

Gov. Butch Otter’s administration formally introduced its health care plan Thursday morning, which a top official billed as an Idaho solution to insurance coverage gaps.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong introduced the Otter bill, which would give basic medical care to 78,000 Idahoans who make too much for Medicaid and not enough to earn a tax credit on the state health insurance exchange.

The House Health and Welfare Committee will give the plan a full hearing again in about ten days, indicated committee Chair Fred Wood, R-Burley.

The proposal would cost at least $20 million in 2017, and another $30 million in 2018 and each year beyond.

Otter’s proposal doesn’t cover prescription drugs, specialty care procedures or catastrophic medical emergencies. It would give enrollees access to preventative and routine medical care, which the state believes will cost about $32 per person per month.

The director noted the state’s role in crafting the plan, as the Idaho Legislature shuns Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Armstrong stated, “This is a responsible, all-Idaho solution that can be of tremendous value to Idaho citizens in the communities.”

If the plan clears the House and Senate, Otter wants cigarette and tobacco tax money to fund the payments. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, might have other funding sources.

Idaho Reports’ Melissa Davlin wrote last month that Bedke suggested paying for the plan with Millennium Fund dollars. The Millennium Fund is Idaho’s share of a tobacco lawsuit settlement in 2000.

Otter’s plan contains an undetermined amount of one-time startup costs for training and outreach. It also includes money to hire new administrative workers.

Critics from across the political spectrum have voiced their displeasure with the plan.

Early in the 2016 session, legislative Democrats rejected the governor’s pitch, which they dubbed “Ottercare.” They blasted it as too expensive for the services rendered.

From the right, Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman slammed the plan as another government entitlement program.

Otter’s proposal “simply makes a new group of Idahoans dependent on a new government entitlement program, which is not a solution at all,” Hoffman wrote last month.

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