Close the Gap Idaho Statement Urging
Action for 78,000 in the Gap in 2017

Members of Close the Gap Idaho called on Governor Otter and the Idaho Legislature to work promptly toward securing access to affordable health coverage for Idahoans while positioning our state for federal healthcare reform expected from Congress.

The Idaho Legislature convenes at the same time the new U.S. Congress is taking steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and as leaders in Congress, such as Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, the nominee to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are considering reforms to Medicare and Medicaid.

Members of the coalition, made up of healthcare policy experts, nonprofit leaders, healthcare providers and other supporters, spoke at a media briefing following Governor Otter’s 2017 State of the State address. Local leaders highlighted expected shifts in the healthcare landscape that could leave Idaho at a disadvantage compared to other states and stressed that 78,000 Idahoans still lack affordable coverage.

“The fact is that doing nothing in 2017 and waiting to see what comes out of Congress is not fiscally responsible,” said Luke Cavener, Idaho Director of the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN). "The different Medicaid funding mechanisms being discussed in Washington, DC would gradually shift the cost of healthcare to the states. That will mean more stress on our state budget and less capacity to fund other priorities, such as schools. If Idaho is at the back of the line for financial support because we sat on the sidelines today, it will mean even more harmful fiscal impacts for our state,” Cavener concluded.

Several states are acting preemptively to protect or increase access to health coverage for low-income populations. Republican governors in Ohio, Michigan and Arkansas have urged Congress to continue funding healthcare for their low-income expansion populations at the enhanced state/federal Medicaid match rates originally outlined in the ACA; match rates that are more generous than Idaho’s current rate in which the state pays about 30 percent of costs and the federal government funds 70 percent.

“Now is not the time to pause and wait to see what happens. Now is the time for the Idaho Legislature to take action to provide healthcare coverage to hardworking Idahoans who are uninsured,” said Tim Heinze, CEO of Valley Family Health Care, a community health center with medical clinics in Payette, Emmett, New Plymouth, Ontario, Vale and Nyssa. “Federal healthcare reform is coming. If Idaho continues to opt out, we may find ourselves left out. Action now can position Idaho to be in alignment with federal reforms and our state can help uninsured Idahoans access life-saving healthcare, including behavioral healthcare,” Heinze concluded.

“Thousands of hardworking Idaho families are in the perilous situation of not being able to afford the healthcare they need. It is more urgent than ever that we close the coverage gap because the consequence of missing this opportunity could be putting the health care needs of Idahoans behind those of the 32 states who have already acted,” said Lauren Necochea, Director of Idaho Voices for Children.