Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: January 9, 2016”

Better than nothing?

stapiluslogo1

When Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said last week, “It’s not lost on us that we’re dealing with people’s lives here,” he was saying something that needed to be said . . . in that, a lot of Idahoans probably do think concerns about their health care have been lost on the legislators. Or at least on many of them.

When the Idaho Legislature has in recent years discussed establishing a health insurance exchange, something many other states have, the debate has tended to center on a discussion of just how evil the federal government is. The health of Idahoans wasn't a factor, at least in their debate. Sometimes didn’t come up at all.

Lawmakers will get another chance to consider all this beginning Monday, when the legislature returns to town and starts to review a proposal on health care from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter has asked committees to look into the subject of expanding Medicare in Idaho as many other states have, and from those panels has gotten back responses in the affirmative. Actually following through remains politically problematic, mainly because the Idaho Legislature has given no indication it wants to go there. Evidently by way of trying to do something that might win legislative support (and it may), Otter proposed last week a $30 million program intended to address the medical needs of the 78,000 or so Idahoans who have no affordable health coverage.

The plan would cover enrollment at a clinic near where people live, and patients there could get an assessment and a plan for meeting their health needs, and maybe a prescription discount. Those are not bad things, and could help some people’s health and maybe reduce emergency room use. But actual substantial medical care, meaning more significant (or expensive) care such as hospitalization, the core of what an expanded Medicaid would provide and the kind of issues that have ruined many lives financially and otherwise, would not be covered.

Idahoans would get a health service some of them don’t have now. But the proposal drew a quick response from a large group of health care providers which pointed out its severe limitations.

Neva Santos, Executive Director, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, said, “While investing in primary care is useful, as offered by PCAP, it will not provide the needed diagnostic or treatment options to maximally keep patients out of the emergency room or from costly hospitalization.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett: “We’re still paying into the Medicaid expansion program we don’t receive any benefit from, so the dollars go to other states. We’re still taking care of CAT fund and indigent funds in our counties and cities, and now we’re being asked as taxpayers to pay $30 million for a new program.”

Expanding Medicaid would, by some estimates, save state taxpayers $173 million over the next decade.

Hill acknowledged that Otter’s proposal wouldn’t cover near what Medicaid would, but “There are other states that are looking at other alternatives that we may learn from, that we may be able to emulate somewhere down the road. We’ve gone 100 years without providing this service, we want to do it right. And this seems like a good step.”

He and Health & Welfare Director Richard Armstrong pointed out too that enacting this program wouldn’t mean Idaho couldn’t do more – such as a Medicaid expansion – later. And that’s true.

But it’s not hard to image future legislators saying, “We already took care of that,” whenever is raised the subject of actual serious medical coverage for the 78,000.

Reading: WA’s initiatives

From a notice by David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office:

FYI: As WA lawmakers prepare to open their session on Monday, the people’s process of writing laws by initiative got its start Friday.

By mid-afternoon, 24 proposals with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, including 13 from initiative activist Tim Eyman. His measures deal with making it tougher to raise taxes in Olympia, bringing back $30 car tabs, express lane tolls, and other issues.

Kurt Ludden of Seattle filed seven initiatives, dealing with medical marijuana, and the initiative process. Other sponsors submitted measures dealing with a single-payer health insurance system for Washington, grandparents’ visitation rights, and faculty carrying handguns.

The process of filing is easy — pay a $5 filing fee and submit the proposed wording. History shows, however, that usually only a few actually make the ballot. It takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters — and the Elections Division recommends bringing in at least 325k to cover duplicate and invalid signatures. The deadline this year is July 8.

Initiatives are sent to the state code reviser for review as to form, and then on to the attorney general for a ballot title. Ballot titles can be challenges by sponsors or foes in court. After all that, it is up to sponsors whether to actually print up 20,000 or more actual petition sheets for signature collection. Many sponsors do not take that final step, and many do not gather enough signatures to qualify.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has provisionally certified two initiatives to the Legislature as the Elections Division begins the signature-verification process. They are I-732, dealing with carbon taxes, and I-735, petitioning for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising.