Editorial: “It’s Time for the Legislature to Deliver on Medicaid Expansion”
By: Sen. David Nelson
On Monday, volunteers from across the state came to the Capitol to defend the will of the people by convincing legislators to fund the Medicaid Expansion Idahoans voted for. I was grateful to meet with so many of them and listen to why they drove hours to the State Capitol to speak directly with legislators and make the case for Medicaid Expansion in Idaho. Of course, their dedication to the issue shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Proposition 2 passed overwhelmingly in November with 61-percent of the statewide vote. In my District, which encompasses Latah and Benewah Counties, 66-percent of the voters decided Medicaid Expansion was the right thing for their family members, friends and neighbors. While I may be new to the Idaho State Senate, I know a mandate when I see one.
You may be wondering, “why did all of these people drive all those miles to meet with legislators when Medicaid Expansion is the law of the land?” I wonder that myself. However, too many legislators walking the halls of the State Capitol are working to add barriers to coverage.
Over the next couple of months, you will become familiar with the term “side-boards.” It’s a term synonymous with “barriers to coverage,” “work requirements,” or “sunset clauses.” In other words, “side-boards” are conditions tacked on to Medicaid Expansion. They’re all expensive, unnecessary, and not what Idahoans voted for. I consistently supported a “clean” Medicaid Expansion program for Idaho before I was elected and my views have not changed. Idaho voters made it crystal clear they want Medicaid Expansion and I intend to do my part to fulfill the will of the people.
The reasons for supporting Medicaid Expansion in Idaho have not changed. What made sense a year ago makes sense now. Idahoans are tired of seeing their loved ones go without access to quality healthcare just because they can’t afford it. They are sick of paying for emergency room visits because preventative care is not accessible. They are fed up with shipping their federal tax dollars out of Idaho to pay for healthcare in other states. It’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of Idahoans voted for an unmodified version of Medicaid Expansion.
Medicaid Expansion is particularly important in District 5 due to our rural critical access hospitals (“CAH”). Places like the Benewah Community Hospital in St. Maries and Gritman Medical Center in Moscow will benefit from Medicaid Expansion dollars coming back to Idaho. There are 27 CAH’s throughout the state and 19 of them are operating in the red. Medicaid Expansion will help stabilize those hospitals and ensure local communities have quality healthcare facilities their citizens can turn to.
I am also encouraged by the results in other Medicaid Expansion states which saw job growth. Idaho stands to bring $400 million in federal dollars back to our state. A report issued last year estimated Idaho could add thousands of new jobs because of Medicaid Expansion. Our rural counties sure could use some of those jobs. Why would anyone want to put barriers in front of a program that provides quality healthcare to our citizens, creates jobs and keeps our rural hospitals out of the red?
I applaud the individuals working hard to make sure that Medicaid Expansion is implemented with no restrictions. I stand with Idahoans from District 5 and all over the state who are ready to see the legislature respect the will of the people. Idahoans asked us to give them quality healthcare with no barriers to coverage, it’s time to deliver.