Idaho Medicaid: Florida’s Medicaid Cure proponents to visit state a second time

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Idaho lawmakers interested in Medicaid Cure program include, from left: Sen. Russ Fulcher, Rep. Vito Barbieri and Rep. Grant Burgoyne.

The state of Idaho may be on the verge of expanding its Medicaid program. And a Medicaid policy expert from Florida is hoping that Idaho will follow her plan to reduce Medicaid costs. So much so that she’s traveling to Idaho a second time to advocate for it.

Begun in 1965, the Medicaid program provides certain health care services to individuals and families with low incomes and limited resources. Financed with a combination of federal and state tax revenues, the expanding costs of Medicaid have in recent years become a topic of growing concern among the individual states, despite the eligibility of the program being based on a variety of means testing processes.

“Florida’s Medicaid reforms are making patients happier and healthier at some of the lowest per-person costs in the country,” Christine Herrera says of the plan her organization champions. She is vice president of policy for the nonprofit Foundation for Government Accountability, based in Naples, Fla. Referred to as Medicaid Cure, the program allows a greater number of health care provider groups to compete for the opportunity to serve Medicaid patients, and was launched as a pilot program in six Florida counties back in 2006.

“Other states, like Kansas and Louisiana, are implementing policies similar to those that we have in Florida now,” Herrera tells IdahoReporter.com. According to FGA’s website, the competitive nature of the Medicaid Cure program has resulted in lower Medicaid services costs, and has saved Florida taxpayers approximately $118 million each year since the program’s inception. FGA estimates Florida could save more than $900 million annually if the program were to be implemented statewide.

“Idaho policymakers are faced with rising Medicaid enrollment, escalating health care costs and ongoing problems with access and outcomes,” Herrera notes, and at least one state legislator concurs with her.

“Idaho’s current Medicaid costs are indeed a significant burden on the state’s budget,” Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com. “We must be willing to consider proposals which can save money while assuring appropriate quality of care and patient choice.”

The Medicaid Cure program might also be of interest to Idaho lawmakers for yet another timely reason. The original draft of the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, required the individual states to expand the eligibility of Medicaid. While that portion of Obamacare was overturned by the Supreme Court, the states are still considering whether or not to expand Medicaid eligibility, and that prospect is under consideration in Idaho.

“Federal money is being dangled in front of the states as an enticement to expand Medicaid,” believes Kendall Antekeier, a health policy analyst with the nonprofit Heartland Institute of Chicago. “Some states are planning to expand eligibility, yet others are finding that the expansion of an already financially unstable program is not financially feasible,” she told IdahoReporter.com.

So will Idaho expand Medicaid eligibility, or will it remain with its current eligibility requirements? “Some people will argue that Medicaid expansion will save money over time,” Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, told IdahoReporter.com. “I think it is just another inefficient, bloated government entitlement that will result in higher costs to the state, and a reduction of personal freedom.”

Herrera’s presentation at the Idaho Capitol in December was well received by at least one legislator attendance. “I think the competitive model that she (Herrera) talked about is accomplishing the goals in Florida that we would hope to accomplish here in Idaho,” says Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. “Bringing down costs, increasing the availability of services and introducing competition in the marketplace, these are exactly the things we need for Idaho’s Medicaid program,” he told IdahoReporter.com.

Herrera, along with one of her fellow policy researchers at FGA, will meet with Idaho legislators on Jan.10-11. She was first in the state in early December at a day-long policy forum sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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