Little Questioned About Idaho Medicaid Expansion At Town Hall

Nov 16, 2018

Governor-elect Brad Little says setting a timeline to implement Idaho’s Medicaid expansion will be among his top priorities as he prepares for Inauguration Day.

Speaking at an AARP tele-town hall Thursday, Little spent half an hour fielding questions on how he and the state legislature will expand Medicaid after Idahoans overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2. Up to 91,000 Idahoans could be eligible under the expansion.

He wouldn’t commit to getting the program up and running within six months, as one caller wondered.

That’s because Little says the federal government needs to sign off on Idaho’s application – especially if lawmakers want a waiver to mandate new enrollees to work or pay premiums.

“If we want to do anything different than those other states, that means we’ll have to spend a lot of time cajoling our federal partners and then we have to have the money in place at that time to pick up the match,” he says.

Little notes his administration will find the 10 percent match required for Medicaid expansion, whether from savings found through Idaho’s catastrophic insurance program or shifting other money around.

Niki, Forbing-Orr, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Welfare, says the agency anticipates implementing the expansion on Jan. 1, 2020 if state lawmakers don't tack on any extra stipulations. No funding is expected before the new fiscal year takes effect on July 1, 2019.

Forbing-Orr says those who buy their health insurance through Idaho's exchange should still select a plan for next year to ensure coverage.

An analysis released earlier this summer estimates the program could cost about $105 million over the next 10 years.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion say those costs would likely be less – or save Idaho taxpayers money – if the state drastically cuts the amount of money it spends on indigent care.

Little says he wants to create "off-ramps" for those eligible under the expansion to eventually enroll in private or employer-based insurance, or a plan subsidized by the federal government offered on Idaho's  health insurance exchange.

The Idaho legislature will reconvene in January.

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