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Medicaid Expansion Proposals Surface at Idaho Statehouse


  • Kelsey Hawes

Who is to say how far a new proposal to expand Medicaid might advance through the 2016 Idaho Legislature? Moscow Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt—who is also a physician—says he has two measures to put before Idaho lawmakers: one is a full-tilt expansion of Idaho Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, and a second would expand Medicaid to the 100 percent federal poverty level.

Even though Schmidt said he has been fighting an uphill political battle to get some kind of bipartisan support, he's still anxious to get his proposals on the record and allow the public and lawmakers to weigh in on the matter in a formal arena.

Meanwhile, Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Sen. Lee Heider (R-Twin Falls) said he is prepared to grant a hearing Tuesday, Feb. 2 on at least one of the measures.

During his State of the State address launching the 2016 legislative session, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter proposed what he called a "Primary Care Access Program," which would only earmark some state funds for a limited number of health care services. The plan has since been dubbed "Ottercare." 

The biggest difference between the opposing proposals is that Otter's plan would require approximately $30 million in state funds, while Schmidt's plan would draw from federal monies. The problem there is that more than a few Idaho Republican lawmakers think those federal dollars are too closely shackled to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

As it turns out, Otter's Primary Care Access Program proposal is also slated to surface next week at a committee hearing.