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Idaho's Obamacare Holdout On Expanded Coverage For Working Poor To Continue

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
The Idaho House adjourned for the year at midday Friday following on Senate's heels, which closed down late Thursday.

Idaho will remain among the 19 states resisting a key provision of Obamacare. The Idaho Legislature adjourned Friday without agreement on whether to explore an expansion of the Medicaid program.

The Idaho House voted along party lines 55-12 against opening negotiations with the feds to expand Medicaid eligibility on Idaho’s terms. The object would have been to create a customized, state-managed health program to cover more of the uninsured poor.

House Health and Welfare Committee Chair Fred Wood, R-Burley, said he leaves Boise feeling disappointed.

“We’ll be back next year,” Wood said. “We will be working on this and will get this issue for this gap population solved -- not nearly as fast as some people would like, granted.”

Count Democratic Assistant Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, in that unsatisfied group.

“The decision to kill that bill… is an example of a House bent on politics not on policy,” Erpelding said.

Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke said he plans to appoint an interim work group to fashion and propose some kind of new coverage for an estimated 78,000 uninsured low-income Idahoans.

Neighboring Washington state and Oregon decided in 2013 to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Insurance and health officials in both states credit that move for a big drop in the number of people without health insurance as of the end of 2015.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.