By Cameron Rasmusson
Slowly but surely, Medicaid expansion is making its way through the Idaho Legislature.
Funding for the expansion, which was mandated by voters through a ballot initiative with more than 60-percent support, was approved by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. A collaborative committee of Idaho House and Senate members that makes financial decisions for the state budget, JFAC voted unanimously Wednesday to fund Medicaid expansion through the Millennium fund.
“I am ecstatic to see that the members of the committee are respecting the will of the people,” said Rep. Sally Toone, a Medicaid expansion supporter. “This vote sends a clear message to all the legislators. We have found a funding mechanism and are ready to implement Medicaid Expansion. Idahoans need access to quality health care. There is no time for any more nonsense.”
Lawmakers and activists alike called for Medicaid expansion to clear the Legislature unimpeded and without any additional requirements tacked on. But conservative legislators ideologically opposed to the expansion of the federal program made the case in recent weeks for blocking the initiative legislatively. Last week, two bills designed to halt Medicaid expansion failed to advance out of committee, with the House Health and Welfare Committee voting 7-5 against them.
The Idaho Statesman reports that the first attempt to curb Medicaid expansion was a complete repeal of the law. The second repealed Medicaid expansion years down the road if it didn’t produce predicted local and state savings.
Republican Reps. Julianne Young and John Green led the charge to freeze Medicaid expansion progress in committee. They argued that voters weren’t fully informed of the expansion and its implications when they approved the ballot measure. Committee members largely rejected the argument by killing the Medicaid expansion repeal bills in committee.
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