Idaho Medicaid expansion ballot measure moving forward

Idaho Medicaid expansion ballot measure moving forward
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Idaho is poised to allow a vote on Medicaid expansion after an activist group said it has collected enough signatures to put it on the November ballot.

Reclaim Idaho said it has collected the required 56,192 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot. The deadline to turn in the signatures is Monday.

According to the group, county clerks need to verify the signatures by June 30 in order for the initiative to be placed before voters. 

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The initiative would provide coverage for up to 62,000 Idahoans who now fall into a coverage gap, making too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state insurance exchange.

If the state were to expand Medicaid coverage, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost. Idaho is one of 18 states that have yet to expand coverage under ObamaCare using federal money.

Idaho would join Utah as the second state in the last month where groups have gathered enough signatures to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. Groups in Nebraska and Montana are also attempting to gather enough signatures.

Even if Idaho voters approve the ballot measure in November, state lawmakers and the governor will have to implement expansion. At least one GOP gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Raúl Labrador, said he would consider fighting it if he is elected and the expansion initiative is passed.

“I think that they need to be informed about what Medicaid expansion would do for the state. If you look at every single state that has expanded Medicaid, they’re spending more money than they expected to spend … and that’s taking away money from all the other needs,” Labrador said during a televised debate last week.

In Idaho, lawmakers and the governor have the power to change or overturn a voter-passed initiative.

Maine was the first state to pass a ballot measure to expand Medicaid, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage has ignored the effort for the nearly six months since voters overwhelmingly approved it.