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Politics & Government

Medicaid For Idaho Initiative Delivers Petitions One Box At A Time

Medicaid, medicaid expansion, ilana rubel
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Hundreds of volunteers, including State Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), second from the left, showed up Friday to hand in petitions to expand Medicaid in Idaho.

Activists hoping to expand Medicaid in Idaho say they turned in more than 70,000 signatures Friday to get the measure on the ballot in November.

Volunteers passed the dozens of boxes of petitions one by one up the capitol steps.

Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville teared up as he hugged fellow organizers. Mayville says the possibility of having voters choose whether or not to expand Medicaid is just hitting him.

“Just the scale of that opportunity is overwhelming,” he says.

To qualify for the ballot, petition signers have to be spread out across at least half of Idaho’s legislative districts.

Credit James Dawson / Boise State Public Radio
Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville stands in front of dozens of boxes of petitions in an effort to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho. Secretary of State, Lawerence Denney, left, and his staff will verify the signatures over the next few weeks.

State lawmakers have taken up the issue of healthcare access many times in the past, but they’ve never passed a bill citing concerns about expanding state government.

“Unfortunately, we have come up short year after year and I can stand here and tell you that politics has always seemed to get in the way,” says State Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa).

Perry, who recently lost a primary bid for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, now co-chairs the ballot initiative campaign.

If voters approve the measure in November, state lawmakers could still overturn it. Mayville says that would be a “betrayal."

“We believe this is a life-or-death issue for thousands of people and the voters are going to understand that and we think the legislators will understand that.”

The ballot initiative would expand Medicaid for up to 62,000 Idahoans, should it pass.

Credit James Dawson / Boise State Public Radio
Hundreds of volunteers who hope to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho, including pets like Rico Bonito, showed up at the capitol Friday to turn in their petitions. If verified, voters will vote on the initiative in November.

A similar campaign in Nebraska also turned in their signatures Friday to put a similar question before voters there in November.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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