Sen. Maryanne Jordan

Sen. Maryanne Jordan

When the voters passed Medicaid Expansion through ballot initiative, Republicans in the legislature could not resist putting expensive, unnecessary restrictions on coverage. Citizens from across the state and many legislators worked hard to fight these restrictions but the Majority ignored the will of the voters. A bill was signed into law that added a myriad of barriers to healthcare coverage for those who qualify for Medicaid Expansion.

Usually when legislation is passed in the Idaho legislature, it is signed into law by the Governor and takes effect in a few short months. Fortunately, the Medicaid restrictions bill is a little different. The federal government is funding a large portion of Medicaid Expansion so the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has to get permission to implement the restrictions passed by the legislature. They have to ask for permission for every individual restriction.

We need your help to stop one of the worst restrictions. When Idaho asks the federal government permission to put restrictions on Medicaid Expansion, there is a short period where the public is asked to submit comments. The federal government has a legal obligation to take those comments into consideration when evaluating whether or not they will allow restrictions. In some cases, judges have been persuaded to not allow restrictions due to a large volume of comments from the public.

The period for a particularly heinous restriction just opened and we are working hard to collect comments to send to the federal government; the paperwork penalty. If approved, the paperwork penalty would force Idahoans to wade through bureaucracy every single month just to confirm that they are working. There are a myriad of problems with this requirement.

For starters, states that have implemented this restriction have created a second coverage gap. People who qualify for Medicaid Expansion might end up losing coverage because the paperwork to prove that you are working is extremely time consuming and confusing. And, the paperwork assumes everyone works a 9 to 5 job year-round. Nontraditional jobs (like farmers) may qualify for Medicaid Expansion but may not meet the paperwork requirements due to their unconventional work hours. It will also punish individuals with disabilities or poor health who face significant barriers to working but still need healthcare to survive. Many of the individuals who need healthcare the most will lose it, thanks to excessive government intervention.

Paperwork restrictions will require an army of people and a mountain of money to administer. As a matter of fact, this restriction was pushed by lobbyists representing companies that make their living administering these restrictions. States with this barrier to coverage have estimated that it will cost over $50 million per year. The Idaho legislature did not estimate how much it would cost to put these restrictions in place. Taxpayers will end up paying those costs if the federal government decides to approve these restrictions.

Taxpayers will also foot the bill for the court costs when this restriction is inevitably the subject of a lawsuit. When other states have tried to implement this restriction, it has been ruled illegal and overturned. It was actually argued in legislative debate that these costs would be paid by the federal government, not Idaho. News flash. Those are still our tax dollars. In the end, the restriction will likely be ruled illegal and who knows how many people will have been kicked off of Medicaid Expansion and how much taxpayer money will have been wasted.

We need to send a clear message that Idahoans want to implement the will of the voters. Idahoans did not ask for expensive, unnecessary barriers to coverage. The comment period is open from August 23 to September 22, 2019. Please head to www.closethegapidaho.org/take-action/take-email-action/ to submit your comment telling the federal government that you don’t want your tax dollars wasted on denying people healthcare coverage. Every comment matters. The federal government will read what you have to say, and they are legally obligated to consider it when making their decision. We need all of you to help us make sure that our family, friends, and neighbors get the healthcare coverage they need.

Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, represents District 17. Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, holds House Seat B of District 18.

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