Idaho Supreme Court rules Medicaid expansion constitutional

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The Idaho Supreme Court upheld Proposition 2 Tuesday, determining the citizen-led initiative to expand Medicaid is constitutional despite a lawsuit from the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the foundation’s lawsuit argued expansion would give too much power the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the federal government, making it unconstitutional. IFF worries that should the federal government change how it funds Medicaid expansion, Idaho would be left to foot the entire bill. Right now the federal government is expected to cover 90 percent of the cost if expansion goes into effect in 2020.

Just a week after hearing arguments, a majority of the court dismissed the lawsuit, with Chief Justice Roger Burdick writing for the majority that IFF chairman Brent Regan’s arguments “are without merit,” the Associated Press reports. Regan alleged that the federal-state nature of Medicaid gave the federal government authority over Idaho, the AP reports — a point Burdick was sure to highlight as invalid. Burdick also noted that if the federal government changed how it funded Medicaid, Idaho would have to pass new legislation to deal with that, meaning the state would not be left with any required, unexpected expenses.

“If we were to accept Regan’s argument that any reference to a federal statute delegates lawmaking authority to the federal government, then many of Idaho’s statutes would be unconstitutional, and in fact, the option of any cooperative federal-state program would be curtailed,” Burdick wrote.

Funding Medicaid expansion is a big topic during the current legislative session. Prop 2 supporters packed the Capitol steps Monday to push for implementation with no restrictions, among them the local grassroots group Reclaim Idaho, who played an influential role in collecting signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. The initiative passed with over 60 percent approval from Idaho voters.

“We applaud today’s decision by the Court and look forward to seeing Medicaid Expansion implemented in Idaho the way the voters chose,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Emily Strizich Tuesday. “Now that the sideshow is over, we can get back to fulfilling the will of the people of Idaho.”

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