The Medicaid expansion initiative needs roughly 48,000 signatures coming from 18 districts to qualify for November’s ballot. (Luke Mayville/Reclaim Idaho)
BOISE, Idaho – Groups that want to expand Medicaid and cover 78,000 uninsured Idahoans have begun collecting signatures for a November ballot measure – despite other, state level efforts to cover folks without health insurance.
Gov. Butch Otter’s most recent proposal would help about 35,000 Idahoans become eligible for coverage through federal waivers.
Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the group that launched the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, says Otter’s plan is a good start but doesn’t go far enough.
And Mayville maintains the federal government is moving backwards by now allowing states to implement work requirements for Medicaid.
"It provides something of an alternative for our campaign to really draw a sharp contrast between what our lawmakers in Washington and Boise are doing, and what we the voters have an opportunity to do," Mayville states.
Mayville also criticizes Otter’s executive order in early January that allows Idaho health plans to drop some Affordable Care Act minimum requirements, such as maternity or contraception coverage.
Otter says this will lower premiums, but Mayville says it makes junk insurance plans available on the marketplace again.
Mayville says Idahoans in the Medicaid gap often make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough for subsidies on the state exchange. He recounts a story he’s heard many times while launching Reclaim Idaho’s campaign.
"’When I had Medicaid, I had good insurance,’” he relates. “’But then, I went out and got a job – and by getting a job, I lost my health care, because I then made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health care on the state exchange.’"
Mayville says saving taxpayer money is a key feature of expansion. He points out that Idahoans already pay federal taxes that have helped other states expand Medicaid – and those states are seeing the benefits.
"In neighboring Montana, where they expanded Medicaid 18 months ago, they have already saved the state budget $30 million,” he points out. “That’s what we’re trying to do for Idaho – save taxpayers’ money, while also doing the morally right thing."
To qualify for the November ballot, the initiative needs to get the signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in 18 districts – roughly 48,000 Idahoans – by May 1.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – ID