The Graham-Cassidy health care bill will be devastating for Idaho Medicaid and rural communities, writes Amy Benson.

In July, the U.S. Senate voted down a healthcare repeal bill that would have raised cost and reduced coverage for people across Idaho. Three months later, a new proposal has emerged that poses an even more serious threat to Idahos healthcare system. Senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy are pushing a bill that removes protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guts Medicaid, and slashes funding for health coverage in Idaho by almost $1 billion in 2027. Most concerning are the proposed deep cuts to Medicaid that put many vulnerable Idahoans at risk, including my seven-year-old daughter.

My daughter has Down syndrome, autism, hearing loss and is nonverbal. She also has fought through seizures and battled cancer in 2012. We are a middle-class family, fortunate to have decent employment and employer-provided insurance. Yet, Medicaid has kept us from going medically bankrupt by covering the medical needs of our daughter that our primary insurance wouldnt. Medicaid helped cover her cancer treatments and makes it possible for her to be tested regularly to ensure she is still in remission. She has an oral aversion and can only get her nutrition through a feeding tube. Our insurance covers her equipment, while Medicaid covers the expensive supplemental nutrition. Without these supports, she wouldnt live long. Medicaid has literally been a lifesaver for our daughter.

We live in a rural part of Twin Falls County where Idaho Medicaid provides health coverage to 33 percent of children. Healthcare services are limited and Medicaid plays a significant role in keeping kids healthy. With Medicaid we have access to medical care, therapies and home and community based services. These services help many people with disabilities- including my daughter- communicate, socialize, function, and thrive in the community. Medicaid cuts like those proposed by Graham-Cassidy would disproportionately harm rural Idaho by reducing payments to providers or rolling back eligibility for the program. This could cause many healthcare providers to shut their doors or stop providing services to Medicaid recipients. Seniors, people with disabilities, and working Idaho families with children on Medicaid are at risk.

Its time Congress started focusing on other pressing healthcare issues, like the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If Congress does not act soon, many states, including Idaho, will be out of funding for the program by the end of December. The distraction caused by the misguided Graham-Cassidy repeal has jeopardized both CHIP funding and our chance to stabilize insurance markets. Right now is the time to focus on a bipartisan effort to strengthen our healthcare system, and we need everyone experts, patients, hospitals, seniors, people with disabilities and Idaho families to defend Medicaid and the health of Idahoans, like my daughter.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal is not a healthcare repeal bill; its a Medicaid repeal bill. Please contact Idahos members of Congress now and tell them to put stop the political games and partisan brinkmanship and turn their focus to improve our current system.

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Guest column: Medicaid repeal and rural Idaho – Coeur d’Alene Press