Idaho’s politicians are not just frustrated with the overwhelming passage of Proposition 2—they’re downright angry.
They’re angry the people of Idaho took it upon themselves to enact Medicaid expansion. Because those same politicians failed for so many years to solve the Medicaid-gap crisis, the voters decided to take matters into their own hands and overwhelmingly voted to expand Medicaid.
The landslide vote for Medicaid expansion set off a firestorm in the state Capitol that is still raging.
Anti-health-care politicians are apparently angry that $400 million in federal funds are coming back to Idaho, which will provide health care access to tens of thousands of Idaho families.
They’re angry that rural hospitals will finally have a lifeline to keep their doors open.
They’re angry that Medicaid expansion will create thousands of well-paying jobs in the process.
Here’s the worst part: those angry politicians are now proposing to push the costs of Medicaid expansion onto property taxpayers, and for no good reason.
Don’t take our word for it. The Interim Committee on Medicaid Expansion has been meeting all summer. Their plan is to shift Medicaid expansion costs to your property tax bill even though they don’t have to.
They’re just angry. And, they’re going to take it out on taxpayers.
The fact is that 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion gets picked up by the federal government. That leaves 10 percent for the states. For Idaho, that comes to about $40 million. Once you account for offsets and savings from other accounts, the bill is about half that amount. In other words, Idaho’s share of Medicaid expansion is almost a rounding-error when compared to the entire state budget. Gov. Little called the committee’s plan “dubious” earlier this week in front of 200 county officials.
If funding is still needed once state savings are used, that money is available in Idaho’s Millennium Fund.
Two decades ago, Idaho and just about every other state decided to settle with Big Tobacco and accept payments of about $20 million per year. Those payments are administered in Idaho by a legislative committee called the Millennium Fund. Earlier this year, that very committee recommended that Big Tobacco funds be used to invest in Medicaid expansion for the first six months of its implementation. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be used to fund Idaho’s Medicaid expansion program for years to come.
No property tax increases. No public obligations.
Despite this, the politicians want to put the burden on property taxpayers.
The Millennium Fund’s purpose is unique. While its goal is to fund smoking cessation and drug-abuse prevention programs, there is no state law requiring that those private dollars be used for those particular purposes. Other states have used their Big Tobacco settlements to balance budgets, construct jails and even promote tobacco farmers. Were Idaho to use its Big Tobacco money to provide health care to tens of thousands of Idahoans, shore up our rural hospitals and create thousands of well-paying jobs in the process—well, we’d be ahead of the curve.
Reclaim Idaho believes in the energy and vitality of all Idahoans no matter where they live in this great state. We understand the benefits of supporting programs that lead to healthy and productive citizens, families and communities. We are disappointed, to say the least, that some politicians would rather raise your property taxes than utilize available funds for the benefit of all Idahoans.
The landslide vote for Medicaid expansion was a colossal achievement. The people of Idaho did in one day what the politicians couldn’t do in six years.
Now is the time to tell our elected leaders to quit being so angry and let Big Tobacco fund Medicaid Expansion in Idaho.
Luke Mayville is co-founder and Rebecca Schroeder is executive director of the organization Reclaim Idaho.