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Voters Push Idaho, Other States to Expand Medicaid

About 300,000 people will have access to health coverage after voters in three states, including Idaho, passed Medicaid expansion. (Reclaim Idaho)
About 300,000 people will have access to health coverage after voters in three states, including Idaho, passed Medicaid expansion. (Reclaim Idaho)
November 8, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho joined two other states on Election Day in expanding Medicaid to low-income residents.

Proposition 2 passed by a wide margin, garnering 60 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

It will potentially cover 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the Medicaid gap – those who make too much to qualify for the program but not enough to afford insurance.

The state Legislature has voted down attempts to expand the program over the past six years.

Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children and with the group Close the Gap Idaho, maintains voters connected with stories from people who fell into this health coverage chasm.

"Many Idahoans in the gap courageously shared their personal health care stories so that people could understand what was at stake,” she states. “Hard working Idahoans are falling into this gap because we have a health care policy that doesn't make any sense, and Medicaid expansion fixes that gap."

Proposition 2 received support from Gov. Butch Otter a week before the election. State lawmakers have until Dec. 6 to allocate funding for the measure.

Utah and Nebraska also voted to expand Medicaid. According to estimates from government agencies and state advocacy groups, expansion in the three states will provide access to coverage to about 300,000 people.

Brian Whitlock, president of the Idaho Hospital Association, says Proposition 2's passage will provide a boost for hospitals.

He says of the 27 critical access hospitals in rural communities, 19 are losing money on the patients they see and that covering more Idahoans will help these hospitals keep their lights on.

"If we can see a reduction in the number of uninsured patients that come through our doors, if there is some reimbursement for that critical care that these rural hospitals are able to provide, that will be a significant savings to them on their bottom line," he states.

Whitlock says this is a significant victory in red state Idaho and he hopes the state Legislature will act quickly to put this measure in place.

"Idaho is one of the most Republican states in the nation, and yet the people of this state passed Medicaid expansion, and I think it's incumbent on them to look at the straightforward message that was delivered and move forward on implementing this in a very straightforward fashion as well," he stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID