The Idaho Way?

Brad Little has made many statements about how we need to do Medicaid Expansion “The Idaho Way”. The first time I heard it I smiled. The second time I smirked. The third time, I rolled my eyes. C’mon Brad, just what “Idaho Way” are we talking about here?

If you are going with the regional approach to the “Idaho Way” you will have to decide between the North Idaho Way where we bunked down, pile up the ammo and wait for the Feds. Maybe it’s the Blaine County Way where we drink chardonnay and give everybody a guaranteed wage.

But I have a sense you are thinking bigger than regions.

I know you are a student of Idaho history. Is there some historical example that resonates as the “Idaho Way”? We have bargained with the Federal government on water issues and highway funding, nuclear materials and wolves and sage grouse. The only time we stood up strong was when it looked like Idaho was going to be a dumping ground for nuclear waste. I hope you can maintain that stance, but it doesn’t really give me much direction here.

Most states that have gone through Medicaid expansion have seen it as a strong positive. It’s the ones that have tried to mess with it by adding “side boards” that have struggled. Maybe that is the Idaho Way you are suggesting: we struggle?

There’s the example of Arkansas that added work requirements for new Medicaid enrollees. They effectively booted 18,000 off the Medicaid rolls, but costing the state tens of millions to institute. Is that the Idaho Way? Spend lots of taxpayer dollars to get less people health insurance?

You could do the same math with any other “sideboard”: drug testing, co-pay requirements and lifetime limits. The cost of administration for any of these comes from the Idaho General Fund, which takes away from schools, your stated priority.

We both know the legislature is feeling burned by the voters on this one. The Idaho legislature sat on their hands for six years and turned away billions of Idaho federal tax dollars from returning to this state to insure low income Idahoans and felt just fine about that choice. I sure hope you don’t think that’s the Idaho Way. Idaho voters have said it isn’t.

The Idaho legislature has been just fine with spending Idaho tax dollars to pay for these uninsured to the tune of hundreds of millions for the Catastrophic fund and indigent costs. That money could have gone to Idaho schools. I sure hope this isn’t the Idaho Way you keep promoting.

Butch Otter had a little courage a few years back when he decided Idaho could set up a state-based exchange to make health insurance available for those above the poverty level. He had a big fight with the more conservative members of his (and your) party on this one and many dear colleagues heard strong words from their central committees and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. I saw in that move a faint glimmer of the “Idaho Way”. Decide what is right and fight for it.

The most effective way to get the most Idahoans enrolled in health insurance is simple, direct implementation of Proposition 2; now Idaho law as the voters have endorsed. That seems like the Idaho Way to me. How about you?

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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