Idaho GOP lawmaker touts Medicaid expansion

Rep. Tom Loertscher

Rep. Tom Loertscher

An Idaho House Republican will introduce legislation Thursday seeking to expand Idaho’s Medicaid program, a key provision in President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul.

Rep. Tom Loertscher says he’ll introduce two bills – one dissolving Idaho’s existing program to pay indigent people’s medical costs, and a second to expand Medicaid to include people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Under Obama’s overhaul, the federal government will initially pay for 100 percent of newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries. But the U.S. Supreme Court forbid the feds from forcing the expansion onto states, leaving decisions up to legislators and governors.

Loertscher contends Idaho will save state taxpayer money by expanding coverage under Medicaid.

Last year, a Seattle-based actuarial firm concluded Idaho will save $6.5 million through 2024 if it expands eligibility – and suffer costs of $284 million by rejecting it.

If lawmakers agree, expansion would include about 104,000 additional people.

Gov. Butch Otter has not yet endorsed expansion, despite a recommendation to do so by a 15-member panel he assembled in 2012 to review the consequences for Idaho.  (AP)

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