Majority Caucus chair, State Senator Russell Fulcher, is doing a favor for the voting public as well as the media by challenging incumbent Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter in a contest for the Republican nomination. He could also be doing Otter a favor.
For 104,000 Idahoans who would be eligible for an expanded Medicaid program, however, Fulcher is ensuring their needs will not be met. Real suffering even unnecessary deaths, will occur.
By challenging his party’s sitting governor what looked like a dull run-up to a third almost uncontested term suddenly has created the magic “buzz” candidates and their campaigns like to generate, but few do.
The Meridian senator has already generated extensive coverage by a media desperate for the good copy a hotly contested race between Tea Party conservatives and status quo regular Republicans will provide.
The media loves intra-party fights.
Now the perception (whether true or not) is a real horse race is shaping up. The result should be more scrutiny of the candidates, their issues and stances. An attentive voter can be the beneficiary if this translates into a more informed vote.
Many political pundits were surprised by the Otter campaign’s bland response to Fulcher’s announcement which more or less said “we’ll see you down the road.” If ever there is a good time for an incumbent to start defining his challenger its right at the get-go when they announce.
Governor Otter’s campaign manager, the normally competent Jayson Ronk, missed one of the best opportunities to frame what the race will be all about.
Fulcher will sound a familiar theme borrowed from Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential race: “a choice, not an echo!”
Like Tea Party candidate Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls attorney challenging Rep. Mike Simpson in the second congressional district, he will claim he is the true conservative, not the incumbent.
The glib five-term State Senator from District 22 is counting on true blue Republicans (Only those previously registered as R’s will be able to vote in the May primary) responding to his message that the Governor sold the state down the river by registering Idaho’s insurance exchange with the hated ObamaCare program.
The real victims of Fulcher’s challenge, however, will be the estimated 104,000 Idahoans eligible for Medicaid under new rules being promulgated. In addition this expansion would greatly relieve most every county’s indigent fund that pays a large share of the cost for medical treatment that the poor cannot afford. For Fiscal Years 2014, 2015 and 2016 the Federal government would pay 100% of this expansion cost estimated to be $750 million each year.
The problem is the Legislature sees this as Phase II of ObamaCare and another invasive Federal intrusion. If it approves participation at the end of the three years the state is supposed to start picking up 10% of the cost.
So the Legislature has already foregone FY 2014. Fulcher’s challenge of Otter premised on Otter’s supposed cave-in to the Feds on a state-run insurance exchange virtually guarantees the governor will not support FY 2015 and 2016 participation in the Medicaid expansion despite a $1.5 billion infusion of federal funds into the state. The estimated savings for state and county taxpayers in FY 2015 is $80 million.
Make no mistake, folks, a New England Journal of Medicine study in 2012 claims that for every 172 new enrollees in Medicaid there is one less death. Therefore one can plausibly lay 600 deaths directly at the feet of Governor Otter, Senator Fulcher and Idaho legislators who in their blind hatred of Obama and ObamaCare are saying they don’t care.
What’s puzzling is that Otter, while succumbing to Fulcher’s pressure with regard to Medicaid expansion, turns around and invites the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to speak at a fund-raiser in Coeur d’Alene on December 6th openly taunts and derides for their 18th
Fulcher has to be happy about this “arrogance” on Otter’s part, knowing full well that arrogance was a major issue contributing to unknown State Senator Don Samuelson’s upset of three-term GOP Governor Robert Smylie in the 1966 GOP primary.
Most of the time gubernatorial decisions and legislative concurrence does not mean life or death for people. Every once in awhile though playing politics has real life or death consequences. The issue of Medicaid expansion is just such an instance.
While Senator Fulcher’s challenge to Governor Otter’s bid for a third term promises to be entertaining one hopes the media and the voter understands it has already had sad consequences for the some 600 Idahoans who the study says will die because of lack of access to an expanded Medicaid program our governor and legislature turned its back upon.
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