Idaho Governor Not Convinced People Die Because Of Lack Of Insurance

Mar 28, 2016

Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho governor Butch Otter stood in front of reporters Monday and called the legislative session that ended Friday “pretty good.” Later in the press conference with legislative leaders he said lawmakers did a “tremendous job.” Lieutenant Governor Brad Little called it a “great session.” And Speaker of the House Scott Bedke recited a list of people he thought should be happy with it including teachers, students, firefighters and state employees.

But much of the session wrap-up focused on the legislature’s lack of action to extend health coverage to the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who don’t have insurance because they fall in the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies. Lawmakers this year spent a lot of time discussing various plans to address the gap but nothing ultimately passed. Otter said he was disappointed they did not go forward on closing that gap. But he said he did not totally agree with the claim some have made that Idahoans are dying because they fall in the gap.

“I see plenty of people that die every day in hospitals and they have insurance,” Otter said. “And they’re in the hospital. But they still die.”

Otter said multiple times that people without insurance have healthcare options such as the Terry Reilly clinics. He said he is not considering calling a special legislative session to address the health coverage gap.  

Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said there is a “firm commitment” from the Idaho House to do something about the gap, but he said it’s an issue that will take time.

“I think we need to count it as great progress that, from an issue that we weren’t talking about and said that we were not going to take up, that we have in a very meaningful way,” Bedke said. “And I believe that on this foundation we can build a solution that will work.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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