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Signatures Submitted for Idaho Medicaid Expansion Measure

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About 62,000 Idahoans could get access to coverage if the state expanded Medicaid. (Reclaim Idaho)
About 62,000 Idahoans could get access to coverage if the state expanded Medicaid. (Reclaim Idaho)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
July 6, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Supporters of an initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho rally at the State Capitol Friday to deliver more than 70,000 signatures to state officials. They'll likely hear in mid-July if they qualified for the November ballot.

The initiative would cover about 62,000 Idahoans who make too much money for Medicaid but too little to qualify for federal subsidies to help them pay for health insurance.

Campaign co-chair, state Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, says for some Idahoans, this is a life-or-death issue.

"In a state where we have definitely put a lot of value on our families, I think that it's inappropriate for us to orphan kids and widow spouses because people don't have access to health care," says Perry.

If Idaho expands Medicaid, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the cost using tax dollars Idahoans already pay. Last week, Republican delegates called on their party to formally oppose the initiative, saying it would eat up funds for other critical needs.

Thirty-two other states have expanded Medicaid to include people in the coverage gap.

John Blessinger is a veteran coping with disabilities, who also has two children with special needs. While he and the kids are covered, his wife falls into the health-care gap – and she needs an operation but can't afford it.

Blessinger is sharing his story at the rally, because he knows other Idahoans can relate.

"They have a spouse that works their butt off and would work more to be able to afford it, but she's taking care of three disabled people,” says Blessinger. “So, she can't work more – because if she works more, then she can't take us to our appointments. I can't even drive anymore."

Perry notes expansion would also save money. She says people without health insurance usually wait until there's an emergency to go to the hospital – and then, they receive expensive care.

"They can't afford to pay for it, but those costs are being absorbed by taxpayers. So, we are paying for the care anyway, and I think that's kind of a point that some people don't quite recognize," says Perry.

The rally begins at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol.

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