COEUR d’ALENE — The petitioning, door knocking and media coverage worked.
After years of failure to convince state legislators to expand Medicaid in Idaho, Proposition 2 won overwhelming approval from 60.6 percent of the state electorate Tuesday and is on its way to becoming state policy.
The effort to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot began in Sandpoint in the spring of 2017, when Luke Mayville and Emily and Garrett Strizich founded Reclaim Idaho. Volunteers were people from across the Gem State including here in Kootenai County — where Jessica Mahuron, candidate Rebecca Schroeder, and a host of other activists fought to persuade the public to say yes to Prop 2. Their argument was that Prop 2 would benefit 62,000 Idahoans whose work earned them too much to qualify for help on the state health care exchange, but too little to qualify for Medicaid.
“Tonight, these hardworking Idahoans are not forgotten; they’re not ignored, they’re not unheard or unseen,” Mayville told Reclaim Idaho volunteers in Sandpoint on Tuesday night. “Tonight, they are lawmakers, because tonight, Medicaid Expansion is the law of the land.”
“The passing of Prop 2 is a true miracle to the citizens of Idaho,” said Mahuron. “A true testament to the power of ordinary people when they work together for a common cause.”
However, Mayville may be a bit ahead of himself. On Wednesday morning, Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman said his organization would try to stop the initiative from becoming law.
“Though we had hoped special interests would not be successful in persuading Idahoans to support Obamacare expansion, the Idaho Freedom Foundation prepared for this moment,” Hoffman wrote in a statement. “Tuesday’s vote was not the last word on the subject. In addition to being terrible public policy, Proposition 2 is poorly worded and likely unconstitutional. We will soon announce our next steps to protect Idaho taxpayers and future generations of Americans by preventing Proposition 2 from taking effect.”
As Rep. Bryan Zollinger and IFF Vice President Fred Birnbaum explained in an Oct. 19 editorial, all one needs to do is to follow the money to understand that the measure would largely benefit health care corporations, not average Idahoans. Signatures to put the measure on the ballot were gathered earlier this year by Fieldworks LLC workers, who were paid with $400,000 in funds that came from Washington, D.C.-based The Fairness Project. The D.C. lobby itself was founded by a $5 million grant from a health care workers union that is part of Service Employees International Union.
A separate pro-Prop 2 organization based in Boise, Idahoans for Healthcare, raised more than $500,000 including $150,000 from the Idaho Hospital Association, $49,000 from the Idaho Medical Association, and $30,000 from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry’s Prosperity Fund.
“Medicaid expansion would add at least another $500 million in annual payments to providers once fully implemented,” said Zollinger and Birnbaum. Thus the fight to prevent implementation of Prop 2 will be in part a fight against “crony business practices. Organizations that will benefit from government spending are essentially lobbying Idahoans for even more government spending, while cloaking themselves in concern for the less fortunate,” they said.
As Mayville noted on Tuesday, some state officials have already said they’d fight against Prop 2’s implementation. However, some local legislators who had opposed the measure, including Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene, said that they’d support Prop 2 upon its passage.
Mayville warned legislators that if they think they can withstand the will of 364,861 voters, they’re in for a reckoning.
“If they think they can do anything less than implement full Medicaid Expansion to all 62,000 Idahoans in the coverage gap, it’s our responsibility to do something about that,” he said.