Idaho’s taxpayers could save $380 million over six years by agreeing to expand Medicaid coverage for more low-income people under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, according an analysis by the Spokesman-Review newspaper.
Currently, costs of caring for Idaho’s indigent population are borne by counties and the state as part of Idaho’s “Catastrophic Health Care Fund.” The total bill is expected to top $60 million next year. Under Obama’s law, Medicaid would be expanded to cover many of those people, with the federal government picking up 100 percent of the tab until 2016. Support is pared gradually to 90 percent after 2020.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in June, justices ruled states couldn’t be punished if they didn’t expand their Medicaid programs. Gov. Butch Otter has a committee investigating what Idaho should do, with their recommendations due in a few weeks. With conservative lawmakers arguing against Medicaid expansion, it’s unclear what Idaho will decide to do since the Legislature must sign off on any decision.
Catastrophic fund managers estimate Idaho will spend $61 million next year on indigent medical care, split between county property taxes and state general funds. With costs expected to escalate by at least 7 percent annually for the next six years, the cost for the program would be $436 million. (AP)