A unique roundtable this morning featured members of law enforcement, health care providers and advocates for the disabled. But the discussion also included the voices and faces of Medicaid.
Krystal, who asked that her last name not be used at the roundtable, is a 22-year-old who has struggled her entire life with an intellectual disability and bipolar disorder. She also has a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome.
For two years, she said, she was doing well, living in her own apartment and holding down a job. But she needed her therapy along with psychosocial rehabilitation counseling. Her PSR services were threatened last year, in the wake of the Idaho Legislature's decision to cut tens of millions of dollars from Medicaid and other services.
"When I was told that I had to choose between my fundamental therapy and my PSR services, I cried a lot," said Krystal. "How am I supposed to deal with my life? It makes me feel I can't be a civilized person in Idaho."
Sgt. David Cavanaugh said the cuts have had a direct impact on his work as supervisor of the Boise Police Crisis Intervention Team.
"We're having to take people to emergency rooms more," said Cavanaugh. "And that's cost cities and counties a lot of money. We're using a very expensive band-aid for a major problem."
Mike Ferguson, Idaho's recently retired chief economist and current director of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, said the cuts don't make sense—even when only looking at the numbers.
"I hate to sound callous about this, but for every dollar that Idaho spends on Medicaid, we receive another 70 cents in matching federal funds," said Ferguson. "You don't see those kind of returns on investment anywhere else."
There are reports from the 2012 Idaho Legislature that lawmakers may not restore lost funding to Medicaid and instead propose tax cuts or transfers of funds to reserves.
"That speaks volumes to where our priorities are right now," said Ferguson.
Katherine Hansen, executive director of Community Partnerships of Idaho, said she was convinced that many citizens don't support the cuts.
"Last year, we had 14,000 Idahoans sign a petition that would have supported a tax increase in order to avoid cuts to Medicaid," said Hansen.