New Analysis Shows High Cost in Not Accepting Federal Medicaid Expansion for Idaho

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Idaho Voices for Children says the cost of doing nothing is around $653 million over the next decade. - 'THE COST OF DOING NOTHING'
  • 'The Cost of Doing Nothing'
  • Idaho Voices for Children says the cost of doing nothing is around $653 million over the next decade.

In January, University of Idaho assistant clinical professor Steven Peterson released a report on the economic impacts of Medicaid and its proposed expansion in Idaho.

Earlier this week, a nonprofit called Idaho Voices for Children released an analysis of that report, finding that the Healthy Idaho Plan—in which the state accepts federal dollars for Medicaid expansion—helps working Idahoans and gives the state a financial boost.

The analysis, titled "The Cost of Doing Nothing: Cost of Delaying Action on the Healthy Idaho Plan is Highstates that the Healthy Idaho Plan would cover 78,000 Idahoans who can’t get affordable health insurance because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for assistance on the state-run health care exchange.

“There’s a high cost to maintaining the status quo on health coverage,” stated Idaho Voices for Children Director Lauren Necochea in a news release. “Taking advantage of available dollars already set aside for Idaho to extend health coverage would allow us to move beyond a Band-Aid approach and bring common-sense preventative care to tens of thousands of Idahoans. At the same time it stimulates our economy.”

"The Cost of Doing Nothing" states that launching the Healthy Idaho Plan—which was recommended by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Medicaid Redesign Workgroup in 2012—would allow the elimination of the State Catastrophic Health Care and County Indigent Programs, as well as reallocate revenue from sales, income and property tax.

“Put another way,” the analysis reads, “the cost of doing nothing is $653 million to Idaho’s state and county budgets for the next 10 years.”

The plan also protects employers from facing fines by allowing their employees to access affordable health coverage and points out that the cost of doing nothing is high on working families.

It says that parents are only eligible for Medicaid in Idaho if they earn 26 percent of the federal poverty level—around $4,380 per year for a family of three. While many parents make more than that, they don’t make enough to qualify for tax credits in the health exchange.

“That means that if a working parent is injured or has an illness requiring treatment or expensive medication, her only way to get affordable coverage is to quit working, in order to be eligible for Medicaid,” the report stated. “Losing wages and the opportunity to work is a high cost for these families, Idaho’s economy and its tax payers. The healthy Idaho Plan would close this health coverage gap, help Idaho families and businesses, and support long-term economic growth.”

This isn’t the first report to come out in support of the federal Medicaid expansion. Another report called "Rx For a Healthy Idaho,released in December 2014 by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy and Idaho KIDS Count (both of which Necochea leads), found that Medicaid expansion would spur $700 million in economic activity and the creation of as many as 15,000 new jobs.