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Idaho Health and Welfare Wants $26 Million Increase, $48 Million More for 'Ottercare'


  • Kelsey Hawes

Monday was no holiday for the director of one of Idaho's largest agencies. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare chief Dick Armstrong sat before the Idaho Legislature's budget-writing committee and asked for a 3.9 percent increase for Fiscal Year 2017, amounting to a $26.3 million bump for the department.

Armstrong quickly added his proposal did not include funding for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Idaho Primary Care Access Program, dubbed "Ottercare" by its opponents. Detractors of the governor's plan say it doesn't do nearly enough for the 78,000 Idahoans caught in the so-called "Medicaid gap"—those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to secure coverage through the state health care exchange.

Still, Armstrong argued, "[The governor] has been quite adamant about covering people in the gap."

PCAP would earmark approximately $32 per person to fund health assessments, but would not include funding for prescriptions, lab work, X-rays or behavioral health services.

Armstrong told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Jan. 18 that PCAP would require nearly $48 million in state funding over two years, with $18 million required in its first fiscal year.