Idaho’s voters have spoken, not just with their voices but with their names.
Close to 75,000 Idahoans signed petitions putting Medicaid expansion (Proposition 2) on Tuesday’s ballot. Their reasons were myriad but can be boiled down to a few common sense and humane points.
Idahoans are tired of being left out. We’re paying for healthcare for millions of people in the 33 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Idaho’s federal dollars are flowing into places like California and New York while tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors go without.
In the meantime, our state tax dollars and property taxes are being used to overpay for healthcare at home. Our state and local taxes go into a variety of programs – including the Catastrophic Healthcare Fund – which pays for super-expensive and inefficient emergency room care. As state representatives, we know local communities around Idaho would much rather use those dollars to fix roads or improve our schools.
However, the biggest reason why Idahoans all over the state (the ballot measure met the signature threshold in 21 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts) overwhelmingly put Medicaid expansion on the ballot is based on what they see from their front porches -- our families, friends and neighbors.
Idahoans value security and fairness. We look at our friends and neighbors and have compassion for those who go without healthcare options every day. We want our children to grow up in healthy households. We want our parents to be strong enough to play with their kids and take an active role in their education. There is a multiplier effect to healthcare access that benefits all of us. Healthy families produce stronger communities and a more productive state.
More than 60,000 of our friends and neighbors fall into the coverage “gap.” They make “too much” money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for subsidies on the Idaho exchange. That’s roughly the population of Pocatello or Idaho Falls. Imagine if we had 60,000 healthier, stronger citizens – citizens who can work more hours; play more often with their kids; be more involved in their communities. We support Medicaid expansion because we see it as an investment that will pay dividends in the communities we represent and beyond. Expanding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
The benefits of Proposition 2 extend even further into our rural communities where hospitals fight closure every year. Getting access to quality healthcare should not be determined by your zip code.
We could tell you about the millions of dollars Medicaid expansion will save our counties and state every year. It will. We could talk about the hundreds of millions of dollars that will come back to Idaho and the thousands of jobs that money could create. They will. It’s no coincidence Idaho’s business community, healthcare community, the Idaho Sheriff’s Association and leaders from both sides of the aisle are endorsing Proposition 2. They know a healthier Idaho is a stronger Idaho.
What we can’t quantify are the benefits increased healthcare access will bring to Idaho families and communities. It’s hard to put a number on feeling more secure. It’s even harder to put a numerical value on how much better we’ll all feel knowing our trusted friends and neighbors will finally have access to quality healthcare. On Tuesday, vote with your hearts and your minds for stronger Idaho families, healthier Idaho communities and a more productive, prosperous state. Idaho can’t afford to miss this opportunity.
Rep. Mat Erpelding is the Democratic Leader in the Idaho House of Representatives. Republican Rep. Luke Malek represents District Four (Coeur d’Alene) in the Idaho House of Representatives.