Idaho’s working families—not to mention every taxpayer in the state—received some welcome news last week from Washington, D.C. You don’t hear that often, but this time it’s true. The D.C. Federal Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Arkansas’ so-called “work requirements” attached to Medicaid. The three-judge panel, which included a Reagan-era appointee, noted that Arkansas’ paperwork restrictions were “arbitrary and capricious” (translation: bad) because they did not fit within Medicaid expansion’s foundational goal of providing healthcare access to people who otherwise could not afford it.
The decision comes as no surprise. Judge after judge after judge has ruled that states trying to tack on multi-million-dollar paperwork bureaucracies designed to take healthcare away from people does not line up with the purpose of Medicaid expansion. The decisions have been so straight-forward, several states are opting to stop enforcing their so-called “work requirements” until the issue is finalized in the courts.
Idaho should join those states and stop trying to pursue its “arbitrary and capricious” restrictions to voter-approved Medicaid expansion.
Let’s consider some of the reasons why so-called “work requirements” are bad for working families and Idaho taxpayers.
First, Idaho voters made it abundantly clear—by a 61-39 margin—that it favors clean Medicaid expansion without restrictions. Reclaim Idaho volunteers knew this well before Election Day 2018 because we knocked on tens of thousands of doors all over the state and spoke face-to-face with Idahoans from Bonners Ferry to Driggs. They were concerned about their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who struggled to get access to quality healthcare. They wanted to ensure their trusted friends and neighbors got to see a doctor—not fill out a bunch of paperwork every month.
Second, Idaho taxpayers don’t like to see their money wasted. They don’t like the idea of their elected leaders creating an unnecessary bureaucracy out of whole cloth that will cost us millions of dollars each year to administer. And yet, that’s exactly what our elected leaders did. Idaho’s paperwork regime is perhaps the most restrictive in the nation. That is not what Idahoans want.
Finally, Medicaid expansion is designed to give healthcare access to working families who otherwise don’t have the money to see a doctor. That’s the whole point. That’s why more Idahoans voted for Medicaid expansion than voted for our current governor. Forcing working families to fill out a bunch of paperwork every month is not what Medicaid expansion is about. As the D.C. Court of Appeals stated, the primary purpose of the law is to “furnish medical assistance” not add a “laundry list” of ulterior motives to the program.
Lawmakers in other conservative states took the hint from federal courts months ago and stopped pursuing so-called “work requirements” following a series of decisions that ruled the restriction was illegal.
Idaho should follow suit.
While Idaho voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion by a landslide margin in 2018, they have been met with fear and anger from lawmakers who continue to try and take healthcare away from tens of thousands of Idahoans while bilking Idaho taxpayers for millions of dollars each year. Playing politics with Idahoans’ healthcare—and our pocketbooks—is just plain cruel. We didn’t vote for any of that.
Idaho’s elected leaders need to stand down and stop their attacks on working families and Idaho taxpayers.
Testimony to the legislature this session indicates Idaho is already seeing the savings from Medicaid expansion. The transition to the new program is going “remarkably smoothly” according to Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare. There is no reason to continue pursuing harmful and expensive restrictions to the program. Medicaid expansion is about providing healthcare to Idahoans, not settling scores with Idaho voters.
Idaho’s lawmakers should spend more time implementing the will of the people and less time pursuing policies that will harm working families and taxpayers throughout our great state.
It’s time to stand down on pursuing Idaho’s paperwork penalties to Medicaid expansion.
Luke Mayville is the co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, a progressive political action group based in Boise. Rebecca Schroeder is its Executive Director.