GRANGEVILLE — Despite overwhelming voter support of Medicaid expansion and an Idaho Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that the proposition was legal, the Idaho County Commission voted Tuesday to send a letter to the Legislature opposing the measure.
In a letter authored by Commissioner Mark Frei, the commissioners asked lawmakers to “oppose Medicaid expansion and not implement it in Idaho. Our request is true to our constituents here in Idaho County who voted 58 percent against Medicaid expansion in the last election.”
Frei said his rationale for drafting the letter is that, in spite of voter support, “Medicaid expansion comes to Idaho via (a ballot proposition), which lacks the legislative debate, the grappling with its fiscal impact, the consideration of each district’s constituents before the law is enacted. Winning a proposition comes down to which side is able to throw more money at the ad campaign.
“Let us not be duped here in Idaho by the big money that came in from outside the state to pass Medicaid expansion,” Frei said, “organizations who don’t care about the good of Idaho but who see us as one more cheap target in their grand plan to get Medicaid expansion all across the nation.”
Frei added the measure “will be a train wreck for Idaho both fiscally and with respect to patient care.”
Voters approved Proposition 2 by more than 60 percent in November. Following a lawsuit by the Idaho Freedom Foundation seeking to block the measure, the high court ruled Feb. 5 that the proposition is constitutional.
Commissioners R. Skipper Brandt and Denis B. Duman, while agreeing to forward Frei’s letter on to the Legislature, hesitated to endorse his original draft, which contained opinions about how laws are made.
“I don’t know that it benefits us to note in the letter that 58 percent of Idaho County opposed Medicaid expansion,” Brandt said. “… My idea is to do it in the simplest way.”
Brandt said he does disagree with the sentiment that Medicaid expansion will “provide so much more service to people in the gap but it’s not going to cost anything; we’re going to save more. You do not provide more service of any type and save money at the same time.”
The gap refers to those who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid under Idaho’s current criteria, but didn’t earn enough to be able to get subsidized health insurance coverage through Obamacare.
Duman said that “it’s state statute that made it possible (to pass the proposition), whether you like it or not.”
But he agreed that “it’s going to come from our pockets, one way or another.”
Frei said his basic argument is that legislators believe Medicaid expansion is “a done deal” because it was approved by a majority of voters.
“I just want to point out to them that that is actually a poor way to make law,” Frei said. “We don’t simply do majority rule. We’re not really a pure democracy, even though the newspapers like to say that we’re a pure democracy.
“But we’re not. We’re a constitutional republic. … I don’t think that this law came to us in the wisest way and that it lacked the legislative debate. I’m calling for them to submit the law to the difficult process that we make law in Idaho, rather than simply the majority rule.”
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.