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Medicaid expansion: to benefit 78,000 in Idaho fallen into ‘gap’

Letter to the Editor

I would like to respond to Jim Chmelik’s LTE of Jan. 10, in which he questions whether Medicaid expansion would be “the fiscally responsible thing to do” in Idaho.

The Medicaid expansion program is intended to benefit the 78,000 people in Idaho who lack access to affordable health care and have fallen into the ‘Medicaid Gap’. These people, the working poor, earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford insurance on the state health care exchange. We Idaho taxpayers are already paying into the Medicaid expansion program through our federal taxes, but that money is going to other states that have accepted it, and none is coming back to Idaho to help our own. We have already missed out on significant federal funding in Idaho since 2014.

The federal government paid 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion for 2014 through 2016, 95 percent in 2017, and is covering 94 percent in 2018. Although we Idahoans contributed to this funding through our federal taxes, none of it came back to Idaho to help our own. In 2019, federal funding will cover 93 percent of the cost and will level off at 90 percent for 2020 and beyond.

By not expanding Medicaid, Idaho loses $3.3 billion in federal funding over 10 years (assuming the ACA remains in place), while federal tax revenue collected in Idaho is being used to expand Medicaid in other states.

If Medicaid is expanded in Idaho and federal funds begin to cover the newly eligible population, $18 to $22 million in annual property taxes could potentially be eliminated, as those funds are used to help pay for the existing indigent care program.

Medicaid expansion has broad support from voters and legislators in both parties across the country, with 11 states led by Republicans having accepted it. Idaho is one of only 18 states that have not.

In the next two months, we Idaho voters have the opportunity to make the decision ourselves, by signing the petition to get Medicaid expansion on the November general election ballot. Visit to learn more.

Mary Ann High



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