Idaho Department of Health & Welfare office building exterior

Here's an article from the Lewiston Tribune:

By William L. Spence

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is taking public comment on a new Medicaid expansion waiver, less than a week after the comment period on a related waiver closed.

Both applications deal with people who earn between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The intent is to give them the option to buy subsidized private health insurance through the state exchange, rather than shift to Medicaid. The agency announced the new waiver Wednesday, saying the move stems from conversations with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Although these are two separate waiver applications, the intent and goals are the same,” the agency noted in a news release. “The department’s conversations with federal partners have indicated that Idaho may need both … waivers to implement coverage choice, and in the interest of time, (it) is preparing both applications.”

The move stems from actions taken by the Idaho Legislature during the 2019 session. Rather than implement straight Medicaid expansion, as approved by voters, Republican lawmakers adopted a series of conditions and restrictions on the program. One of the conditions was that people in the 100 percent to 138 percent income category be given the choice to remain on the state exchange.

Under current federal rules, people who qualify for Medicaid aren’t eligible for the tax credits that help lower the cost of private insurance through the state exchange. Consequently, Idaho will need federal approval to enact the Legislature’s will. Public comment on the first waiver, which was crafted by the Idaho Department of Insurance, ended Sunday. The public comment period on the second waiver application ends Aug. 9.

The Department of Health and Welfare “will carefully review and consider all public comments received related to the coverage choice policy, whether formally submitted through the (Department of Insurance) waiver application process or this (new) waiver application, prior to submitting the full application for review and approval,” the agency noted in the news release.

Detailed information on both waivers, as well as additional information regarding the status of Medicaid expansion, can be found online at https://medicaidexpansion.idaho.gov. Comments regarding the second waiver can be emailed to 1115CW@dhw.idaho.gov, or mailed to: Attention: Cindy Brock, Medicaid Program Policy Analyst Division of Medicaid, P.O. Box 83720; Boise, ID 83720-0009.

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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