The expansion of health coverage is certainly something to celebrate this holiday season. As 49,000 Idahoans and counting will have health coverage due to Medicaid expansion, we can all be grateful for the peace of mind, economic security and improved health that these families will enjoy. And we must continue to work together to help Idahoans get and keep the health coverage they need. As a physician practicing in rural Idaho, I’m looking forward to more members of our community being able to receive preventative care and address chronic conditions that have gone untreated for far too long.
Medicaid makes it possible for low-income Idahoans to be healthy—making sure they can work and take care of their families. It allows them to see a doctor when they are sick, get check-ups, buy medications and go to the hospital without fear of choosing between their health and groceries or paying their rent/mortgage. Medicaid offers financial protection for families so they don’t have to go bankrupt when they face an unexpected illness or need to go to the hospital.
Medicaid expansion was achieved in Idaho through a bipartisan effort that included the support of former Gov. Butch Otter and several Republican lawmakers with deep knowledge and experience with Idaho’s health system. While a small group of Idaho legislators want to “play grinch” and spread fear about people being kicked off private health coverage, the truth is that these Idahoans will still have health coverage, without the burden of extra out-of-pocket costs that make their private plans difficult to afford.
Medicaid is more cost-effective and offers better health coverage for the vast majority of Idahoans who will qualify for Medicaid expansion. Efforts to keep some Idahoans who are newly eligible for Medicaid expansion on the state exchange would have cost taxpayers more money and added to the federal deficit, which is why the Trump administration rejected Idaho lawmakers’ request to do so.
Health care providers across Idaho, including hospitals, physicians and community clinics, have embraced Medicaid expansion and are working hard to enroll Idahoans and care for these individuals. As a physician, I know that I’m looking forward to treating patients earlier, before they have costly, more serious health conditions.
Medicaid expansion is a gift for Idaho. Idahoans who are struggling to make ends meet will now have access to health coverage and can receive preventative care to keep them healthy, or finally treat chronic conditions that have damaged their quality of life and ability to work. By 2022, Medicaid expansion will result in savings or offsets to the state totaling more than $31 million, with a net savings of $3.5 million annually. Starting on Jan. 1, Idahoans across the state will have health coverage, reducing uncompensated care costs for rural hospitals, helping fund more Idaho physicians, saving local communities money and creating more than $16 million in new economic activity. It’s time to put politics aside and come together to fully support Medicaid expansion in Idaho.
Dr. Keith Davis is a family medicine doctor in Shoshone, Idaho, and is affiliated with two hospitals in the Magic Valley. He received his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine.