The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposed to expand Medicaid to cover everyone within 133% of the federal poverty level by 2014; however, the Supreme Court took away the federal government’s ability to enforce this expansion, allowing states to opt-out. Under the health care reform law, the federal government will pay the full cost of covering newly eligible people from 2014 to 2016, then will scale back funding to 90 percent in 2022 and later years. If every state were to participate, the total increase in state spending would amount to just 3 percent while millions would gain health coverage, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Governor Otter in his State of the State and Budget address rejected Medicaid expansion despite generous federal support. The governor's decision also contradicted a unanimous recommendation from a commission appointed by Otter that the state take advantage of the available federal funding to broaden Medicaid.
There are about 100,000 low-income adults in Idaho who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid. Currently taxpayers cover their medical bills through the state’s Catastrophic Fund. Idaho could add 88,000 poor people to Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion, and 19,000 people already eligible under today's rules, but not enrolled, also may sign up for coverage. The state would spend an additional $261 million from 2013 to 2022 to cover these individuals and the federal government would send $3.7 billion to Idaho, a net financial gain for the state.
Medicaid expansion for all Idahoans is critically important to the health of Idahoans medically and economically. Providing affordable coverage to our most vulnerable individuals will prevent more life threatening and disabling disease that will ultimately incur greater costs to our state. Sick and disabled individuals cannot work which erodes the tax base further draining medical and disability resources. Furthermore, more affordable healthcare insurance coverage puts more money in the pocket of patients who are more likely to support local businesses and thereby growth of the economy.
Our most vulnerable citizens will be at much higher risk for death and disability if Medicaid is not expanded to cover them. Though the Governor’s reticence is disappointing, we are optimistic that state legislators will carefully consider all sides of this issue and pass an economically responsible law that reflects compassion and respect for all its citizens.
United Action for Idaho, and the undersigned share a commitment to securing healthcare as a human right under an improved and expanded Medicare-for-all model. Protecting the current expansion of Medicaid is a small but necessary and life-saving step.