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Disability Action Center NW

Local Officials Address Medicaid Gap

Krista Kramer, Independent Living Planning Coordinator, has been working to bring attention to the Medicaid Gap in Idaho for many individuals below the poverty line. She brought up the issue at the Moscow Town Hall meeting, Saturday, December 19th. Below is the article printed in the Moscow/Pullman Daily News.

Local officials address Medicaid gap

Republican town hall addresses health care, indigent fund issues

Posted: Monday, December 21, 2015 12:00 am | Updated: 9:10 am, Mon Dec 21, 2015.

By Shanon Quinn, Daily News staff writer

More than 1,000 people living in Latah County neither qualify for Medicaid nor can afford to purchase health care insurance, creating a situation that costs everyone, according to county and state officials at a Republican Town Hall on Saturday.

The town hall included state representative Caroline Nilsson Troy, Latah County Commissioners Dave McGraw and Richard Walser as well as Treasurer Lois Reed. It covered a wide range of discussion on the issue, including questions from residents who had traveled from as far as Kendrick to attend.

Currently the debts of those unable to pay for insurance or medical bills are covered by Latah County’s indigent fund or the state’s catastrophic Health Care fund, McGraw said.

“In Latah County you people spend over half a million dollars paying for people who don’t have insurance,” McGraw said. “This week alone we spent $30,000 on the same person who went into Gritman three times over the last four months.”

McGraw said it is because of those people who do not or cannot pay their medical bills that health care is so expensive.

“When you go to Gritman and you get a Band-Aid, you spend 15 bucks for a Band-Aid. That’s because if Gritman puts 10 Band-Aids on they know that seven of those aren’t going to get paid for because there’s no insurance,” he said. “They have to charge 15 bucks for each of the three Band-Aids they are going to get paid for.”

Walser and McGraw agreed that there is more than basic medical care at play in the issue, since many of the expenses are related to drug or alcohol problems.

Nilsson Troy said a big component of the problem is the lack of living-wage jobs in the area, which causes the working poor to fall into the gap between Medicaid and being able to afford insurance.

There is little discussion on and no bills in the upcoming legislative session to raise the minimum wage in Idaho, she said.

Nilsson Tray said she attended a meeting with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Thursday which discussed the growing costs and heard a proposal by DHW Director Richard Armstrong.

“Director Armstrong is coming forward with a proposal for an Idaho primary care access program to help those people that are in the gap,” she said.

According to a handout at the meeting, the Primary Care Access Program would raise the tobacco tax to fund sliding scale billing through participating health care providers.

As it stands, the bill would serve to fund primary care for those unable to afford it, but would not cover the cost of medications, hospital or emergency room care, X-Rays or behavioral health issues.

It would not eliminate the need for county indigent funds.

Nilsson Troy said a work group appointed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter recommended Medicaid expansion – something unlikely to occur.

“No hearings or bills were presented and to date no hearings or bills have progressed during the last two legislative sessions. I think that director Armstrong feelings are that the political landscape is not conducive to passing any type of Medicaid expansion or even Medicaid reform,” Nilsson Troy said. “Taxpayers are paying for this one way or the other.”

  • New offices: The group also discussed the county’s purchase of the Almon Street building and the savings it would present to the county, particularly when the budget will need careful handling because of the upcoming triple murder trial of alleged shooter John Lee.

“It’s a wonderful building,” Reed said. “It’s well constructed. It has a long life span. I’m really looking forward to that being something we have done for the county. It will save us some money.”

  • Tax postmarks: Reed also warned residents that due to the Spokane mail hub being down due to wind damage, all local mail is being rerouted to Seattle to be postmarked, then sent back to Moscow, causing significant delays.

For that reason, those paying their property taxes, which must be postmarked today, should take the envelope into the post office and request a postmark to avoid being late.

Shanon Quinn can be reached at (208) 883-4636 or by email to squinn@dnews.com