Republican Lawmaker Wants To Expand Medicaid In Idaho

Mar 12, 2013

Thomas F. Loertscher
Credit State of Idaho

A Republican lawmaker says he will bring forward a bill to expand Idaho's Medicaid program this week. That's after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said lawmakers should wait on the issue.

Rep. Tom Loertscher (R-Bone) plans to introduce two bills on Thursday.

One would dissolve Idaho's Catastrophic Health Care Program. That's the program that helps medically indigent Idahoans who don't qualify for state or federal health care aid.

The second bill would expand Medicaid eligibility. The expansion would cover people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Expanding Medicaid is a key provision of President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul.

Loertscher says he was driven by pragmatism. He says expanding Medicaid to more Idahoans will save state taxpayer money. That's because the federal government will initially pay for 100 percent of newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries.

StateImpact Idaho has reported Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said in his January State of the State address that Idaho lawmakers should not take up the optional expansion this legislative session.

Otter said he wasn't pushing to expand Medicaid eligibility now. Instead, he asked Idaho Department of Health and Welfare director Richard Armstrong to develop an Idaho-specific plan.

Loertscher's proposed expansion would extend Medicaid coverage to approximately 80,000 more Idahoans. A Utah consulting firm estimates the expansion would save the state and counties $6 million over 10 years.

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