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Idaho Health Care Plan Returned to Committee — Again

'We’re trying to drive a square peg into a round hole' -- Chairman Fred Wood

Idaho Capitol Building

Credit: Contributed photo
Idaho Capitol Building

— The Idaho Health Care Plan, HB 464, which directed the state to apply for two waivers from the Affordable Care Act through the federal government, was sent back to committee on a 42-27 vote in the Idaho House Wednesday, March 21.

House Health & Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, who made the motion Wednesday to send it back to committee, said in floor debate that delaying a full vote would allow for the bill to be improved before the next legislative session. He further argued passing the bill would “not go anywhere this year,” and that voting on it this session would hurt its chance to pass.

“We’re trying to drive a square peg into a round hole,” Wood said. “And that doesn’t work because you break the peg and don’t have a peg to bring back next year, when you might have a square hole to put a square peg in.”

Wood was joined by Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who said the proposal would die permanently if it failed to clear a floor vote Wednesday.

Other lawmakers said the bill deserved a vote, particularly after a lack of legislative action to tackle the Medicaid gap for years. Some argued it wouldn’t be killed forever even if it failed to clear a vote on the floor.

“I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks of me,” a tearful Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said. She said she’s been urged to act on healthcare by constituents who “can’t get medical care. They can’t get help. They work a couple jobs and they’ve asked.”

The House had sent the bill back to committee once before, but it was revived in a surprise action by Rep. Perry this week. She moved to send the bill from committee to the floor again, and the committee agreed.

Perry said the bill clearing committee twice warranted it a vote on the floor.

“I believe that our constituents should hear our voices in this body and not just echoing in the halls,” she said. “I think it deserves the vote.”

Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, among others, joined Perry in opposing the motion to return the bill.

“We are here to represent the people of Idaho. We are not in these seats to hide behind procedural votes,” she said.

“We owe the people of Idaho, after six years, this vote. If it fails, it fails. But, we should not hide behind procedural votes,” Rubel said. “And frankly it won’t work. … Everybody knows this isn’t a procedural vote today. A vote today to send this down to committee is a vote on its merits.”

HB 464 would have directed the state to apply for two waivers: one to close the Medicaid gap by waiving the tax credit ban for people earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty limit; a second to move those with “medically complex conditions” from the private insurance market to Medicaid. The plan also included work requirements for “able-bodied” adult Medicaid recipients, to the behest of many Democrats.

The measure aimed to insure roughly half of the 78,000 Idahoans in the Medicaid gap — 36,000— comprised of people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to get subsidized insurance rates.

– Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.


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