Sara Thomas JFAC

Sara Thomas, administrator of Idaho’s court system, addresses the Legislature’s joint budget committee on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.

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Idaho’s courts are anticipating saving more than $1.5 million in the coming year due to Medicaid expansion, as people going through drug courts and other special treatment courts become eligible for Medicaid coverage. In anticipation of those savings, the Legislature last year covered $913,000 of the treatment funds for the court programs this year with one-time funding only. Sara Thomas, administrative director of Idaho’s courts, told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday that the courts have done an intensive study to determine the Medicaid eligibility of those receiving services through the courts, and came up with an additional $600,000 in anticipated savings to the state general fund. You can read my full story here at (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's edition of the Idaho Press.

Previously, about 15.5% of those in treatment courts were eligible for Medicaid; with the expansion, which voters approved in November of 2018 and which went into effect Jan. 1, 58% are now eligible.

Medicaid will cover 50% of the costs of needed treatment services for those participating in the court programs, Thomas told lawmakers.

“Medicaid covers medically necessary treatments,” she said, “but the treatment courts in Idaho necessarily cover some things that are not medically necessary,” such as drug testing. “That is not medically necessary, but it is necessary for accountability and it is necessary success in that program.”

She did caution that all of this is based on projections, and there are still some unknowns. “Should they not be accurate or should something change with Medicaid expansion, we will have to come back and ask for additional funding to maintain current services in the treatment courts,” Thomas told the joint budget committee. I'll have a full story later today, and will post a link here.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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