Opinion: Why Prop 2 is right for Idaho

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No use hiding my opinion here.

So let’s start with a blanket statement: Medicaid expansion would not only help Idaho financially, it would fulfill the state’s moral and societal obligation to an estimated 62,000 struggling residents.

I’m glad the petition got signed, that the initiative will be on the ballot Nov. 6 as Proposition 2, and now I’m hoping right down to my soul that voters will approve it.

There have been some rumors about the Legislature attempting to overturn Medicaid expansion if the public votes for it — but as goofy as some ideas in Boise have turned out to be, this one is probably a non-starter.

For one thing, Republican Brad Little — the presumptive favorite to be our next governor — is on record claiming he won’t stand in the way.

If Proposition 2 passes …

“The Legislature will appropriate the money and the governor will have to figure out how to make it work,” Little said during a campaign debate. “But if it’s the will of the people, it’ll be state law.”

Obviously, Democrat Paulette Jordan is a full-on supporter of Medicaid expansion.

I think we can get this next item out of way quickly: Yes, there will be some conservative legislators who will kick and scream if the initiative passes, and they’ll suggest a flurry of ways to circumvent it — must-work waivers and so forth.

None of these “poison pills” would likely withstand a court challenge.

And if any actual repeal attempt would face a certain gubernatorial veto, going that route would be just too tough.

At that panel discussion involving medical executives Tuesday night, there seemed to be a funny sort of consensus that we somehow need to improve the overall health care system before adding anyone else into it.

I don’t think so.

During some back-and-forth on the panel, Heritage Health CEO Mike Baker said: “Let’s bring this back to the middle and figure it out.”

GREAT IDEA.

First off, we don’t have to redesign the entire system just to add more people into it — no matter what you hear.

Ultimately, the federal government will be picking up the tab.

There also is ample evidence from the 33 states that have adopted expanded Medicaid that a healthier population saves the state money, and actually puts less burden on doctors, hospitals and entire care systems.

In fact, I’ve been so puzzled by the fact that some states have NOT jumped at expanded Medicaid that I thought I must be missing something.

So, granting anonymity to everyone involved just for my own education, I spoke to several prominent Idahoans — both Republicans and Democrats.

And …

I learned something about Medicaid expansion that was ridiculously simple.

WHAT YOU see is what you get.

A large swath of desperate working people would feel the relief of coverage, the state would benefit financially and everyone — literally everyone — would be better off.

One Republican lawmaker suggested that, sure, he might try to devise a more efficient system, but that expanding Medicaid in the meantime was a great step forward.

So why does the party oppose it?

“Ideology and nothing else,” he said. “It’s the appearance of relying on the federal government.

“Most legislators, in the state and in Washington, don’t really know the details of health care — so they just go along with the party rather than worry about facing a tough primary.”

A Kootenai County Democrat explained it another way, noting that several Republicans refused to sign the Medicaid petition in public, but have said privately they will vote for Proposition 2 because it’s the right thing to do.

Look, I don’t totally blame fretting health care executives. Any change is a pain, and it might (or might not) cost them a bit of money in the short run.

But doing what’s right overwhelms every other argument when cost is such a tiny factor — and likely will work out in your favor.

It’s a shame some of those 62,000 uninsured Idahoans weren’t on that Tuesday panel.

They were probably too busy working.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.

Facebook: Steve Cameron

Twitter:@BrandNewDayCDA

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