The will of the people

By Nancy Gerth
Reader Contributor

On Wednesday last I watched the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee hear testimony on Bill 419, a bill sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. To my surprise, I learned that part of the bill includes a clause that says that if all the requirements of the bill are not met by July 1 this year, the Medicare expansion law passed by more than 60% of voters in 2019 would be repealed by the Legislature. Can anyone imagine that the entire health care system, which has spent the last five years integrating and streamlining Medicaid expansion, can make this change in six months? It outlined 11 requirements that cannot be met by then, and will not get the required approval from the federal government required by Obamacare to obtain Federal funding — the majority of funding for Medicaid expansion in Idaho.

This is a setup to override the will of the voters.

I watched the three-hour-and-15-minute hearing for two and a half hours. Of the first 27 testifiers, 26 were opposed. The final official count, including written testimony, was eight in favor and 407 opposed. All the arguments in favor of the bill were about saving money by cutting people off the rolls and setting a cap on the total number of enrollees: 50,000 — fewer than half of current enrollees. 

All of the arguments opposed were about the health of Idahoans and the stability of our health care system (which saves more money by helping people go back to work and pay taxes, among other things), not to mention keeps and attracts health care professionals to Idaho and keeps our hospitals open. 

I lost count of how many times the words “adamant,” “overwhelming” and “resounding success” were used by people defending Medicare expansion in Idaho. 

The only person I heard who testified in favor of the bill represented the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an organization funded by out-of-state people with way more than Idahoans have to spend, whose goals are to dismantle our institutions including health care, public schools, libraries, hospitals and who knows what else.

This bill is a distraction and a waste of hundreds if not thousands of people’s time and money. A distraction from addressing the real business we elect our legislators to do.

Is it clear to the Legislature yet that the voters want Medicaid expansion? When will they give up trying to stymie initiatives passed by the voters?

In the end, the bill was held in committee. Whatever that means. Will it come back to be heard again? Will it be rewritten with other hidden clauses? Meanwhile thousands of Idahoans wait anxiously to find out whether their lives will be ruined by incapacity, disease or death.

When can I vote? Let me at ’em.

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