The Senate has voted 28-7 in favor of HB 465, the bill to restore non-emergency dental coverage to close to 30,000 Idaho Medicaid patients who haven’t had it since a 2011 budget cut – leading to much higher charges to Idaho’s Medicaid program for serious infections and emergency room visits. Both Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, and Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, said they oppose Medicaid expansion, but this bill isn’t Medicaid expansion. “It’s just common sense,” Souza told the Senate. “This will not do anything beyond basic preventive services, and keep them out of the emergency rooms with terrible situations that can happen if you allow a dental problem to go untreated. So this makes all kinds of sense.”

No one would be added to Idaho’s Medicaid rolls under the bill, which earlier passed the House. Though all the debate in the Senate was in favor of the bill, seven senators voted against it: Sens. Bayer, Crabtree, DenHartog, Foreman, Nonini, Potts and Vick. The bill now goes to Gov. Butch Otter.

Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, the measure’s Senate sponsor, said the change is actually expected to save Idaho’s general fund $2.5 million a year.

The bipartisan bill was proposed by Reps. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Kelley Packer, R-McCammon; its legislative cosponsors include Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol; Christy Perry, R-Nampa; and Sue Chew, D-Boise.

Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who was among the “no” votes in the Senate, is facing off against Packer in a crowded GOP primary for lieutenant governor; Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who voted in favor of the bill, also is running in that race.

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Bill to restore non-emergency dental coverage to 30,000 Idahoans on Medicaid passes Senate, heads to governor