After another weekend of gathering petition signatures in their effort to put the issue of Idaho's Medicaid gap before voters this November, organizers are projecting that they have received approximately 51,000 signatures. The deadline to turn in at least 56,192 signatures to the Idaho Secretary of State's office is Monday, April 30.
According to the Medicaid for Idaho Facebook page, volunteers are continuing to focus on Idaho legislative Districts No. 10 in Caldwell and 12 in Nampa to get the required number of signatures from each district across the Gem State.
UPDATE: April 12, 2018
Medicaid for Idaho organizers said they urgently need volunteers to help garner more petition signatures as they rapidly approach the Monday, April 30 deadline to secure approximately 56,000 signatures in order to put the issue before voters on this November's ballot. According to its website, Medicaid for Idaho has thus far collected approximately 40,000 signatures.
"We really need about 100 volunteers to help us, particularly in Canyon County," said Ada county co-chair Sam Sandmire. "It's really coming down to the wire."
Sandmire points to the group's website, MedicaidForIdaho.org for more information.
ORIGINAL STORY: April 11, 2018
- Kelsey Hawes
For the sixth straight year, the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature chose to push the state health care coverage gap to the back burner, leaving a plan proposed by outgoing Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter languishing in committee. But healthcare advocates remain undeterred in their efforts to take the issue directly to voters this November. The clock is ticking: they have until Monday, April 30, to collect enough petition signatures to be eligible for the fall ballot.
"I think the Legislature's failure was absolutely an attempt by House Speaker Scott Bedke to keep all Republicans from having to go on the record as opposing Medicaid expansion for 35,000 Idahoans," said Adrienne Evans, executive director of United Vision for Idaho. "We've been fighting this for six years. People are dying. This is the most egregious thing that they could have done."
The 2014 Census estimated that 78,000 Idahoans landed somewhere in the gap, meaning their incomes disqualified them from participating in the state-run health insurance exchange and from Medicaid eligibility. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recently estimated that the coverage gap has decreased over the past few years to 35,000 people.
During the recently completed session of the legislature, Idaho House Democrats and a handful of House Republicans asked that the Governor's proposed plan be put to a vote, but the GOP majority stalled the bill. Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa), one of the few Republican legislators in support of the measure, made an emotional plea to her GOP colleagues to reconsider their opposition.
"I have been all but spit on in this body for bringing the bill back," a teary-eyed Perry said on the floor of the Idaho House. "But I don't give a damn what anyone thinks of me [in here]. I came here not because of the people here, but to represent my people, who have cried to have some movement in this particular arena."
Bedke interrupted Perry to ask her to "gather herself" and to "remind everyone [to] debate the motion to send it back, and not the merits of the bill."
"The impact of inaction is severe. Lives are in limbo when Idahoans can't afford health coverage," said Lauren Necochea, Director of Idaho Voices for Children, adding her disappointment that even a plan proposed by Republicans couldn't "get across the finish line."
Meanwhile, organizers at Medicaid for Idaho remain determined to bring the issue to voters this November. But they have their work cut out for them. An initiative on this year's ballot will require at minimum the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in 18 out of 35 Idaho legislative districts—a total of 56,000—on a petition by April 30.
"It is fiscally irresponsible to refuse to keep federal dollars here in Idaho that would be used to help Idahoans," said Medicaid for Idaho leader Tracy Olson. "We pay federal taxes. We should benefit from them like other states that have expanded Medicaid."