Hearing expected Wednesday on new Medicaid ‘sideboards’ bill

March 19, 2019
Rep. John Vander Woude

BOISE — A hearing is expected Wednesday on a new version of a bill to put some limits on Medicaid expansion.

The House Health and Welfare Committee voted to introduce the bill Monday, with the Democrats opposed. The bill hearing will be at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Lincoln Auditorium, said committee Chairman Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley.

The bill, like a previous version, is being sponsored by Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa. It would reduce the work requirement for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries from 30 hours a week to 20, he said.

Like the previous version, it also contains a request for a federal waiver to insure people making from 100 to 138 percent of the poverty level on the Your Health Idaho state exchange rather than Medicaid, but it contains some changes from the last version.

The previous version would have given people the choice of staying on Medicaid or the exchange if the waiver were to be approved, while the new one says they would be insured on the exchange but also that they will be eligible for Medicaid if the waiver isn’t approved.

Vander Woude said about 20,000 people are insured on the exchange now who fall into this group and would, if the waiver isn’t approved, qualify for Medicaid instead, and about 10,000 are believed to fall into this group but are uninsured now.

Idaho voters approved Medicaid expansion via ballot initiative in November. Many Republican lawmakers opposed Medicaid expansion and have been discussing ways to limit it, arguing it is necessary to protect taxpayers. Democrats and Medicaid expansion advocates have been pushing to implement Medicaid expansion without any limits, saying it is what voters want and that it would save the state money.

The Senate State Affairs Committee also is considering a bill to make it harder to get an initiative on the ballot by cutting the length of time to gather signatures and raising the number of signatures needed.

At Monday’s introductory hearing Democratic lawmakers asked Vander Woude several questions about the potential fiscal impact of limiting Medicaid expansion and whether it would lead to costs elsewhere in the budget.

“I do feel this is still very much flying in the face of what the voters expressed, and underscores why the voters need a ballot initiative option, because the Legislature does not always yield to the voters,” said House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel, R-Boise.