Bills To Limit Idaho's Medicaid Expansion Expected This Week

Feb 12, 2019

A group of about a dozen Republicans plan to release their proposal this week to add restrictions to Idaho’s recent Medicaid expansion.

The lawmakers’ plan includes work requirements and lifetime caps on how long someone could be enrolled in Medicaid under the expansion.

Rep. John Vander Woude (R-Nampa) is spearheading the plan. He calls Medicaid expansion the “elephant in the room” this legislative session.

“Nobody wants to be the person that actually, I think, that brings it forward and becomes the target. I have already become the target on a few social media points of view and stuff like that. I don’t mind that,” Vander Woude says.

“I’m more than happy to stand up and do what I think is right,” he says.

Idahoans approved Medicaid expansion by nearly 61 percent last fall, but Vander Woude notes he's representing the 39 percent that didn't vote for it.

“We don’t always let the majority make all the decisions because our Constitution is to protect the rights of everybody, not just the majority."

Several Republican lawmakers say the program needs at least some restrictions to be affordable. To pay for it during the first six months of next year, Gov. Brad Little (R) has proposed using some funding from an old lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies that typically funds smoking cessation programs. The rest would come from expected savings in the Departments of Correction and Health and Welfare.

About 91,000 low-income Idahoans are eligible for health coverage under the plan.

This same issue is also playing out in Utah. On Monday, the legislature there voted overwhelmingly to curtail Medicaid expansion. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) says he supports the plan and doesn’t think the bill ignores the will of the people. It’s unclear when he might sign the bill.

Vander Woude expects to introduce two versions of his proposal on Thursday: one with about a dozen limitations and another with a few handpicked restrictions that he thinks might have a better chance of passing.

It may be stymied in the Idaho Senate. Sen. Fred Martin (R-Boise) has said he doesn’t support adding any restrictions to Medicaid expansion. Should a bill pass the House and come to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which he chairs, he has said he wouldn’t give it a hearing.

But on Monday, Martin's committee narrowly introduced a bill over his objections outlining several restrictions to the expansion, including requiring the respective Health and Welfare Committees to review the program by Jan. 31, 2023. 

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