With the holiday season upon us, I’m reminded of the ways in which we care for one another. One of the best ways we do this as Idahoans is through Medicaid. It provides necessary care for our children, pregnant Idahoans, seniors who need nursing home care, and both adults and children with disabilities. Medicaid delivers developmental screenings to our kids, substance use disorder treatment, cancer care, and much more. And it demonstrates a fundamental belief we share: We never want Idahoans to go without health care due to an inability to pay.
Idaho voters continue to express strong support for Medicaid. They passed Medicaid expansion in 2018 with 61% in favor and the policy has only become more popular. Recent polling commissioned by Idaho Voices for Children shows that 73% of voters favor keeping Medicaid expansion. Additionally, voters resoundingly oppose cuts to Medicaid services.
Unfortunately, Idaho’s Republican supermajority isn’t getting the message. They have made repeated attempts to roll back Medicaid expansion and take coverage away from Idahoans, chronically underfunded Medicaid services, and threatened to make cuts to a critical lifeline.
Today’s direct care worker crisis illustrates what happens when budget setters starve a crucial service. Direct care workers help seniors and individuals with disabilities with daily tasks, like eating and dressing themselves. This support allows Idahoans to live independently in their homes and is typically funded through Medicaid. But a new report from the Office of Performance Evaluation reveals that this workforce faces a 3,000-person shortage and workers can earn 36-39% higher wages in other industries. Idahoans requiring this assistance can be forced into the more costly and less desirable option of moving into an institution when there are no direct care workers available.
There are clear steps the Idaho Legislature must take to protect Idahoans who rely on Medicaid.
First, we must bolster reimbursement for Medicaid services, especially direct care workers so that Idahoans can live as independently as possible. We should also reject proposals that cut Medicaid services.
Second, we need to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to mothers for one year after birth. This is a key recommendation that Idaho’s Maternal Mortality Review Board made after studying how we can best prevent maternal deaths in our state
Third, we must reject attempts to dismantle Medicaid expansion.
Too many Republican politicians prioritize their anti-government ideology over people’s needs. And while some lawmakers do not believe that the public sector should solve problems and help Idahoans access health care, voters clearly do. Voters want to ensure a strong Medicaid program is there when they, their loved ones, and their neighbors need it. Idaho Democrats will continue working to protect and strengthen Medicaid to keep all Idahoans healthy.
Idaho Democratic Party Chair