From the very beginning, expanding Medicaid in Idaho was a grassroots effort. Ultimately, thousands of volunteers from every corner of the state worked to pass Prop 2. Expanded Medicaid access is now law in Idaho. This is a big deal. For six long years, the Idaho Legislature failed the people of Idaho by refusing to address the health care crisis experienced by individuals in the Medicaid gap. Sixty-two thousand Idaho residents lack the ability to obtain health insurance, placing them one diagnosis or accident away from financial devastation. As someone who knocked on thousands of doors in favor of Prop 2, I heard heartbreaking stories every single day. The sheer brutality to our loved ones and communities drove the passage of Prop 2, which voters approved by 60.6 percent.
It is now the duty of the Legislature to fund and implement the People’s law. Providing 10 percent funding at the state level earns us a whopping 90 percent federal match. Gov. Little has proposed funding Idaho’s portion with the Millenium fund. Moving Idaho’s uninsured to managed preventative care will save millions of tax dollars and provide immeasurable security and quality of life to thousands. If there was ever a time for our Legislature to put aside ideology and work toward the common good, it is now.
On Monday, Feb. 4, Medicaid expansion advocates united in Boise to conduct more than 40 scheduled meetings with lawmakers, and more than 300 attended the Reclaim Idaho rally on the Capitol steps. The message advocates sent was loud and clear. We insist that the Idaho Legislature fund the law without restrictions or red-tape, and without delay.
Many productive conversations happened that day with Idaho lawmakers, but many frustrating ones happened as well. I personally met with Rep. Vander Woude, who is leading the charge to propose legislation adding multiple sideboards to the law. I sincerely appreciate the time he spent with us. He listened attentively, despite disagreeing on many issues. My biggest concern is his idea that Idaho voters didn’t really understand what they were voting for, which is both inaccurate and insulting. Medicaid Expansion Legislation has already been enacted in more than 2/3 of states in the nation, with years of data to show dramatic positive impact. Rep. Vander Woude’s proposals would cost taxpayers millions of dollars in administrative red-tape if enacted. I urged him to sideline the sideboards and honor the voters.
Several legislators cited the Idaho Freedom Foundation lawsuit as a reason for delaying action. Thankfully, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Idaho Supreme Court removed that excuse from the playbook, ruling to uphold the Medicaid expansion law. The court rejected Plaintiff Brent Regan’s meritless lawsuit the same way the people of Idaho rejected the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s anti-Medicaid propaganda.
The people have spoken. The court has spoken. It’s time for the Legislature to acknowledge they have been out of step with the needs of their constituents for far too long already, and act without delay to honor the will of the voters.
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Rebecca Schroeder is a Coeur d’Alene resident.