Access to quality, affordable healthcare transforms and saves lives. Idahoans understand this. It’s why we overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in 2018 and why we must now oppose Republican-led efforts to repeal it.
For years, GOP politicians obstructed efforts to assist Idahoans who fell into the coverage gap. These Idahoans earned too much to qualify for Idaho’s restrictive Medicaid plan but not enough for tax credits that make the insurance exchange affordable. This left working Idahoans — substitute teachers, nursing assistants, and small business owners — one medical emergency away from financial ruin.
Today, more than 145,000 Idahoans depend on Medicaid expansion for healthcare.
A new mother with postpartum depression can access medication and counseling. A construction worker can take his cholesterol medication to prevent life-threatening heart disease. A grandmother can get screenings that catch cancer early, improving her survival chances.
Medicaid expansion not only keeps Idahoans healthy, but it is also arguably the best financial deal around. For every $1 dollar, the state puts in, we draw down $9 in federal funds, bringing our tax dollars home.
This wise investment eliminated costs we incurred because Idahoans lacked coverage. Our county indigent and state catastrophic care funds helped cover the cost of unpaid hospital bills at taxpayer expense.
Taxpayers covered court-ordered treatment programs and other behavioral health services that were crucial for suffering Idahoans, but only reached a handful of those who needed them. Most of these expenditures are now covered with Medicaid, but with taxpayers leveraging the 90% match instead of covering the cost in full.
In fact, Medicaid expansion is such a great deal that repealing it would cost the state $10 million more than keeping it in place.
The Republican-backed plan to roll back Medicaid expansion is fiscally irresponsible and cruel.
Before Idaho voters closed the coverage gap, there was a tragic case of a woman in Idaho Falls who couldn’t afford her asthma control medication. She came home from work one day and, with an asthma attack coming on, asked a friend to drive her to the hospital. She stopped breathing on the way and ultimately died. Her story represents the estimated 76 to 179 Idahoans who died each year because they fell into the coverage gap.
Idaho voters sent a clear message at the ballot box: They support expanded coverage that saves lives and millions of dollars.
Why then, are some Republicans determined to repeal it? Because they think they can get away with it. It’s why they continue to put ideological and personal interests over the interests of Idahoans.
Idahoans must send another clear message: we will vote you out if you mess with Medicaid expansion.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair