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More Than 43,000 Idaho Residents Register To Take Advantage Of Medicaid Expansion

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

The Medicaid program in Idaho will officially expand at the start of 2020. Voters last year approved an initiative that mandates that. State officials say almost half of Idahoans who are eligible (more than 43,000 out of 91,000) have signed up for coverage since the beginning of the registration period on November 1.

The state continues to negotiate with the federal government on a handful of waivers that would allow Idaho to deviate from Medicaid rules.

The latest waiver seeks to expand treatment for Idahoans on Medicaid for their mental health and substance abuse problems. The Department of Health and Welfare is asking the federal government to allow more health care facilities to offer those services and be reimbursed by Medicaid.

The department held one public hearing on the proposal Monday in Boise and will hold another on Tuesday. The proposal has the support of Reclaim Idaho, the organization that sponsored the Medicaid expansion initiative.

“Right now, the federal dollars cannot be used for certain mental health problems or drug abuse problems," said Reclaim Idaho spokesman Jeremy Gugino. "But if this amendment or this enhancement is approved by the feds, then that will open up more dollars and more resources to go to facilities to treat more Idahoans for these ailments.”

He says that will especially help people who live in rural communities who have to drive long distances to get treatment now.

This is the last in a series of five waivers Idaho has applied for since voters said yes to expanding Medicaid. State officials are waiting for approval on the rest.

Critics say the goal has been to impose conditions, such as work requirements, that would limit the number of people eligible under the Medicaid expansion. Idahoans who make between 100% and 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible to apply.

If you want to participate in today’s [Tuesday's] hearing, you can dial 1-877-820-7831, then 301388#.