Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Idaho say they will meet their goal to put an initiative on the November general election ballot.
Idaho is among several Republican-leanings states including Utah and Nebraska that hope to follow the lead of voters in Maine who last November voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act via ballot initiative. These states are seeking ballot initiatives because their Republican-leaning legislatures or governors have been roadblocks to the idea.
The group Reclaim Idaho said it has 55,000 of the 56,192 valid signatures needed from across the state and expect to get the additional 1,200 valid signatures by a May 1 deadline. Meanwhile, they say they have cleared a hurdle established by the Idaho legislature requiring signatures across 18 different districts.
“We are excited to have come so far, and we have full confidence that, on the May 1 deadline, we will exceed the total number of valid signatures required to allow Idahoans to decide whether to expand Medicaid,” Reclaim Idaho co-founder Emily Strizich said Wednesday night.
It’s no small accomplishment to put an initiative on the ballot in Idaho, organizers said. “Since the Legislature added the district requirement in 2013, no ballot initiative has succeeded…until now,” ReClaim Idaho said in a statement.
The expansion of Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act has come a long way since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 gave states a choice in the matter. There were initially only about 20 states that sided with then President Barack Obama’s effort to expand the health insurance program for poor Americans. That number of states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has since grown to 32 including Maine, which was the first to approve Medicaid expansion via a ballot measure when state voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative in November.
The holdout states have already missed out on generous federal funding of the Medicaid expansion. From 2014 through 2016, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion population was funded 100% with federal dollars. Beginning this year, states gradually began to pick up some costs, but the federal government still picks up 90% or more of Medicaid expansion through 2020. It’s a better deal than before the ACA, when Medicaid programs were funded via a much less generous split between state and federal tax dollars.
“We are thrilled to give Idaho voters a chance to bring back our own federal tax dollars, currently sitting in Washington DC, to extend healthcare to 62,000 Idahoans who desperately need it,” Strizich said.