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Idaho Senate Panel Nixes Idea to Fund 'Ottercare' With Tobacco Settlement Dollars

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KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes


Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposed Primary Care Access Program—dubbed "Ottercare" by critics—ran into its first detour Monday morning when an Idaho Senate panel refused to hear a plan to fund PCAP with the state's tobacco settlements dollars.

During his State of the State address, which kicked off the 2016 legislative session, Otter said his proposal addressed Idaho's so-called "Medicaid gap" by paying health care providers $32 per month per person who isn't eligible for Medicaid to offset basic care.

Those Idahoans who fall in the gap make too little to qualify for tax breaks to help pay for insurance on the state-run exchange but too much to receive Medicaid assistance. 

Detractors argued the approximate $30 million annual plan didn't do nearly enough for the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who have fallen into the coverage gap because the proposal did not include prescriptions, many X-rays or behavioral health services.

Last week, the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposal but, Monday morning, the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee nixed a hearing on a proposal to partially fund Ottercare with dollars from the Millennium Fund. The proposal went down in an 8-6 vote. House Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Wood (R-Burley) said he feared Otter's PCAP proposal was at risk of lingering at the Legislature "for weeks" without a funding mechanism.

Meanwhile, Moscow Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt has introduced two alternative proposals: one a full expansion of Idaho Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, and a second to expand Medicaid to the 100 percent federal poverty level. Both of Schmidt's proposals would be tied to the Affordable Care Act and would use matching federal dollars.