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Two-thirds of Idahoans support Medicaid expansion to 62,000; District 7 comes out strong



The necessary signatures have been collected to place an initiative before voters this fall, and now supporters of a measure that would provide health care to thousands of Idahoans have begun preparing for the next phase.

Residents converged on Boise

Volunteers caravanned into Boise from the far corners of the state Friday, July 6, converging on the State Capitol to rally and deliver boxes of signatures to state officials from all 44 counties. The signatures represent the will of more than 70,000 Idaho voters.

Participants included elected representatives that highlight the measure’s broad bipartisan support, medical professionals and Idahoans who would receive healthcare under the initiative through Medicaid.

“Idaho County and Legislative District 7 came out in strong support of allowing Idaho citizens to vote on expanding Medicaid for thousands of working people in the state that have no access to health care,” said volunteer Mary Ann High, who, along with Ron Beitelspacher and Joe Cladouhos, collected signatures in and around Grangeville.

High said the Medicaid for Idaho initiative leaders did not expect that to be the case, so rural, far flung, and sparsely populated LD7 was not initially considered as one of the 18 of 35 legislative districts needed to qualify with petition signatures of at least 6 percent of registered voters.

“Our LD7 signatures were only planned to help meet the 6 percent total needed for the entire state. But indeed, we in LD7 qualified early with enough signatures to surpass the 6 percent goal for our district and became one of the 18 districts that were crucial to qualify the state,” she explained. “Our residents understand that by expanding Medicaid and taking advantage of available federal funds, we can cut the nearly $4 million in indigent care that is written off by our area hospitals annually, by 50 percent. That is a 50 percent reduction in property and state tax dollars and would mean a savings of nearly $2 million in Idaho County alone. And more importantly, it would mean that working people in Idaho would no longer have to be without health care.”

Now that the issue will be on the ballot in the fall, Idahoans will have the opportunity to vote on the expansion.

According to an Idahoans For Health Care press release, polling shows the measure is supported by 66 percent of Idahoans. It also enjoys broad support with 53 percent of Republicans in favor of the initiative and 77 percent support among Independents. The poll of 600 likely Idaho voters was conducted in December 2017 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The ballot measure would expand access to healthcare through Medicaid to state residents who earn less than $17,000 or $29,000 for a family of three. These Idahoans – working moms and dads and seniors nearing retirement age who can’t find a job with health coverage – fall into what is known as the “health coverage gap.” They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to be eligible for financial assistance through Idaho’s health insurance exchange.

Organizations supporting the ballot initiative include the Idaho Medical Association, Idaho Primary Care Association, Idaho American Cancer Society, Reclaim Idaho, American Academy of Emergency Physicians, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, Idaho Voices for Children, the Consortium of Idahoans with Disabilities, the Idaho chapter of the American Academy of Emergency Physicians, the Idaho chapter of the American Heart Association and the Idaho chapter of the American Lung Association.

Additional information about the campaign is available at http://www.IdahoansForHealthcare.org.



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