An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Regional News

Idaho Leaders Puzzled By Federal Response On Medicaid Expansion Waiver

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Idaho state officials say they’re surprised and disappointed by the federal government’s response to the state’s application for a Medicaid expansion waiver.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rejected Idaho’s request for a waiver of federal rules that would allow the Gem State to expand Medicaid.

The department said Idaho’s application didn’t provide them enough information. Even if it did, they said the agency couldn’t approve Idaho’s request because it wouldn’t comply with some of the provisions in federal law.

The state wants to allow low-income residents who qualify for Medicaid under the expansion plan to instead continue to buy insurance through the state exchange. The goal is to control the state’s costs as it expands Medicaid to more people.

The agency’s ruling caught Idaho state officials by surprise.

Governor Brad Little on Thursday issued a statement with Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill and House Speaker Scott Bedke. They said the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “pulled the rug out from under us.” They claim the state has worked closely for months with federal agencies on plans to control the state’s Medicaid costs. They said the government never told the state that its proposal would be insufficient.

They say Idahoans should have the option of staying on private coverage rather than being forced onto public assistance. They say they’re working to find and submit the information the federal government wants.