BOISE — Proposition 2, the Medicaid expansion measure which Idaho voters passed in November currently faces a conservative group’s lawsuit challenging it, and beyond that a slew of potential changes from state lawmakers involved in the measure’s implementation.
Meantime, a statewide network of organizations fighting for the Medicaid expansion is calling for the law to be put in place without any significant changes.
Although Proposition 2 passed with more than 60 percent of the vote statewide, the majority of Idaho state senators and representatives did not support the ballot initiative. Opponents complained that Prop 2 doesn’t provide a funding source, causing the expansion to compete for funds which might otherwise go to schools, roads and other such pressing needs. Opponents also worry that able-bodied individuals will now access Medicaid but choose not to work.
All three legislators from District 9 say they want to see some kind of work requirement in the new law. Although Prop 2 had no supporters in the District 9 contingent, this trio — Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth — isn’t indicating any intention to derail
“The voters in each of the four counties in our Legislative District supported the measure, so I will support it as well. I represent the people,” wrote Kerby in an email.
“I have always said I would support the will of the voters. I personally think it is an arrogant position for elected representatives to simply ignore voters,” stated Lee in another emailed response.
During the fall campaign season, Boyle joined a legislators group that actively opposed Prop 2. In an email this week, she said she would be focusing on “solutions” to funding the Medicaid expansion.
“I will assist to make this a workable program that does not harm state funding to education and other agencies. Everyone will be trying to find solutions. We should not additionally burden the state taxpayers,” Boyle wrote.
In answer to another question, Boyle briefly explained why she had opposed Prop 2.
“I did not support nor vote for Medicaid expansion. As a member of the interim committee on expansion, we learned that the states who had expanded found their costs significantly higher than expected and their current Medicaid population received fewer services due to costs & doctor shortages. The House did have an answer to help the gap population using state money but the Governor refused to accept it,” Boyle wrote.
Similarly, Lee alluded to her own past work on the issue. She wrote that she has “worked for four years to find a solution for those in the Medicaid/insurance gap population …
“While I would have liked to see a funding mechanism tied to this measure, and I wonder how much support it would have received if voters had to have also agreed to raise taxes to pay for expansion, I will work to find a solution, that does not require a tax increase,” Lee wrote.
Lee, Boyle, and Kerby each responded that they wanted the expansion to include a work requirement.
“I would like work requirements, and a lifetime limit. Being able to stay on government programs for many years is a disincentive to work for promotions, take additional training, earn new industry certificates, etc.,”
“…[W]e will need to find some compromise and a work requirement or other means-testing are likely sideboards,” wrote Lee. “Given that the gap population was always presented as the working poor, I do not think a work requirement or other sideboards will be a barriers for eligibility or implementation.”
Boyle responded: “Yes, abled-bodied adults should work & contribute to society if they expect to receive public benefits paid by others who hold jobs. Medicaid expansion will force people who currently have insurance on the exchange from 100-138% of the poverty level onto Medicaid. They will then have to sign over their assets to the government. I have never supported removing people’s assets over to the government by forcing them onto such a program. We should seek a waiver to allow those on the exchange to remain there.”
Lee happens to sit on two of the Senate’s key committees with respect to legislature’s upcoming work on Medicaid expansion: Joint Finance & Appropriations, and Health & Welfare.
“Since I serve on both the Joint Finance & Appropriation Committee — where the funding bill will originate — as well as the Senate Health & Welfare Committee — where the policy will be debated — I expect to be actively engaged in the outcome,” Lee stated in her email.
Close the Gap Idaho, which describes itself as “a network of over 300 organizations and individuals statewide, working to support a complete solution to the coverage gap and to preserve health coverage for Idahoans,” issued a news release on Dec. 7 opposing the addition of a work requirement to Prop 2 or making any other changes to the measure.
“… Close the Gap is calling on our state lawmakers to implement Medicaid expansion as it was written, voted-upon, and passed by hundreds of thousands of Idahoans from across the state,” reads the release. “The group warns that changes to the law could cost Idaho millions of dollars to administer and delays setting up bureaucracy that don’t help working families get health coverage.”