by Andrew Crisp
Idaho's Medicaid program could see between 90,000 and almost 105,000 new enrollees, according to a new study, should the state expand the program.
One of two health care working groups appointed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter mulled those numbers today at the Department of Health and Welfare offices in Boise.
A key element of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act includes the now-optional expansion of Medicaid services in all 50 states. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for new enrollees for the first years of the expansion, which would include a segment of the population making slightly more than traditional Medicaid requirements.
Opponents are concerned states will be shouldered with funding part of the expansion in the future. Proponents advocate for covering the underserved segment of state populations to drive down costs to indigent care funds.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Affordable Care Act's penalties for failing to expand Medicaid, Health and Welfare contracted with Washington, D.C.'s Leavitt Partners to study potential effects of expansion in Idaho.
"The contract began in April, and we finished the study in August," analyst Laura Summers told Boise Weekly.
Leavitt Partners looked at numbers provided by Health and Welfare, including Idahoans exiting the corrections system, using health services at Community Health Centers, an indigent medical services fund, and those using mental health services. They arrived at an estimate of what Medicaid expansion could mean for Idaho.
According to Summers, the expansion population would include motly single adults, with 62 percent being childless. Most have not had regular access to care and have significant health conditions, including mental health issues.
"The majority will be poor," Summers told the panel. "They will have income below 100 percent of the federal poverty level."
They may also have pent-up need for care, said Summers. No costs for covering these individuals had yet been established. However, her final slide offered a glimpse. It listed other states that have already begun expanding their Medicaid offerings. Oregon's version, called Oregon Health Plan Standard, showed costs for coverage at $679 for adults and couples, with families at $329.