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Medicaid expansion: More than the dollars, human tragedy greater

Letter to the Editor



A recent letter [Jan. 10 issue] was titled “Legislature is wise in not seeking expansion,” so I’ll explain this opinion isn’t shared by either most states or a majority of Idaho voters.

Medicaid became law in 1966 and now covers one in five Americans. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 expanded coverage to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, mostly “working poor” who didn’t otherwise have access to affordable coverage (kff.org) because they didn’t make enough to qualify for insurance premium subsidies. Income eligibility is $16,642 or less per year in 2017 for an individual, $22,000 for a family of two, etc. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled (5/4) that each state must decide whether to accept or reject Medicaid expansion. A majority of states (32) have implemented it, including 11 states controlled by Republican legislatures. A 50-state map guide to Medicaid eligibility, enrollment, and benefits can be found at healthinsurance.org/medicaid/. It indicates Idaho “is leaving $3.3 billion on the table over the next decade by not expanding Medicaid” and that our federal tax dollars are currently funding Medicaid expansions of other states. In the first year, Medicaid expansion would bring over $720 million of our tax dollars back to Idaho.

The financial loss is astounding, yet the human tragedy is greater. The current estimate is more than 78,000 Idaho residents would be eligible to receive expanded Medicaid, including hundreds of our neighbors in Idaho County whose paychecks buy groceries, pay the electric bill, fuel the car to drive to work, but have nothing left over for medical needs. Expanding Medicaid could also erase most of the current $18 million to $22 million a year in property taxes collected statewide for the County Medical Indigency Program that covers catastrophic medical costs for those with no other way to pay. Plus, the state kicks in millions each year through the “Catastrophic Fund,” which pays bills after they top $11,000 each in a county.

Become informed and decide for yourselves if the “Legislature is wise in not seeking expansion.”

Joe Cladouhos 

co-coordinator, Idaho County 

Medicaid for Idaho 

Grangeville 



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