Idaho Lawmakers Spike Governor's Health Care Plan

Feb 27, 2018

Idaho legislators have torpedoed Governor Butch Otter's proposed health care bill, which would have expanded medical care to some of the state's poorest residents.

Otter's bill would have helped about 35,000 working Idahoans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for insurance subsidies. The Idaho House voted to send the measure back to committee rather than ask lawmakers to vote on its merits.

"I know this is difficult," said House Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, a Republican who asked for the bill be returned to his committee.

"I know 75 percent of the people in Idaho feel like the Legislature should do something, but unfortunately this doesn't appear to be what we can get the votes at this point in time."

Boise Democrat Matt Erpelding responded, saying, "How can we know the votes aren't there unless we take a vote?"

Wood says the decision to drop the bill was made after consultation between the Governor and House Speaker Scott Bedke.

Bedke told reporters after the House adjourned the bill did not have enough to secure a simple majority even with the help of the Democrats, but declined to say exact how many votes the measure lacked.

"Every year we have people come in to testify and cry," said Rep. Christy Perry, a Republican who is also running for the open 1st Congressional District seat. "I do believe after six years of work, that those people and the state of Idaho deserve a vote on this bill."

Rep. Eric Redman, a Republican who is retiring this year, added that lawmakers have no excuse to ignore the Medicaid gap population particularly because the majority of the Legislature has access to state-funded health care insurance.

Otter's bill would have provided coverage to roughly half of the health coverage gap population by seeking two federal waivers.

One waiver would allow low-income individuals to qualify for subsidies available to higher-income individuals. The other would expand Medicaid eligibility to pay for 12 serious and costly medical conditions.

The plan was to shift an estimated $200 million in medical claims from the private insurance market to the federal government, allowing private insurance premiums to be reduced by about 20 percent.

Otter's spokesman said in an email Tuesday that the governor is currently traveling in Washington D.C. and did not immediately have a comment on the House's decision.

The motion to spike the bill passed 53 to 15 with every House Democrat and four House Republicans voting no.

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