Bill would shift more catastrophic health costs to counties


Jody Olson, chairman of the PERSI oversight board, joined two other board members in approving a 4 percent payment hike for some retirees.

It seems as if state lawmakers looking to cut costs are targeting the catastrophic health care fund as one way to meet fiscal objectives.

Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, introduced a bill Tuesday in the House State Affairs Committee that would shift more of the burden of the fund from the state to county governments.  The state and counties share the costs of the fund, with counties pay the first $11,000 of health bills and Idaho paying the rest.

This is one of several bills targeting the fund.  A few weeks ago, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, brought legislation that would change the language concerning the administration of the fund.  Idaho Code dictates that the health fund must cover “necessary” medical procedures, a term which Luker wants to change to “emergency.”  He says the bill would save Idaho about $5 million, but hospitals oppose it because they say medical centers would have to eat the uncovered health costs.

McGeachin’s bill would up the amount counties pay to $12,000 and the state would continue to pay the rest.  The Idaho Falls Republican, who also chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, said the legislators are looking under every rock for cost-savings in a tough budget year.  “We are, as a state, looking for every dollar we can find today,” said McGeachin. “These are some savings to the state.”

Paying for the health fund is a pricy venture.  In this fiscal year, the state is on the hook for about $32 million, while counties have nearly doubled levies for medical expenses in the past two years.  Dave Christensen, chair of the fund’s oversight board, says county levies account for about $33 million annually, from which the county money for the fund is derived.

But there is firm opposition to the measure.  Tony Poinelli, lobbyist for the Idaho Association of Counties, said the measure is simply cost-shifting that would lead to greater costs for taxpayers.  “It will mean a property tax increase of about $1.3 million,” Poinelli told IdahoReporter.com. “I’m concerned about it.”

There were about 1,300 different cases covered by Idaho counties last year, Poinelli explained.

Poinelli also pointed out that McGeachin didn’t involve important stakeholders in the creation of the bill.  “She made it clear this morning she didn’t talk to the association,” he said.

 

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The state would save more than $1 million by making counties pay more, The state would save more than $1 million by making counties pay more
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