JFAC votes down senator’s Medicaid funding proposal


During a gubernatorial debate Thursday night, Gov. Butch Otter left the door open just a crack for Medicaid expansion.

On Monday, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) opened the Department of Health and Welfare budget setting with a controversial proposal. Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, made a motion to cut $225,900 of the state’s portion for the mandatory Medicaid expansion called MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income). It is a methodology by the IRS to determine eligibility under the proposed expansion of Medicaid in 2014.

The proposal, which was supported by Sens. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, failed on a 15-5 vote. Thayn’s proposal would cut the portion Idaho would pay, but retained an option for the department to negotiate the disposition of $1.46 million in federal funds.
Some on the committee feared Thayn’s proposal could result in a loss of federal funds because it would free Idaho from its share of a state-federal funding formula.

Thayn said that his proposal was intended to make the point that if the federal government is requiring some action by the state, then the feds should pay for it. “This is something that is required by the federal government. I think we could be using this money in other areas. Since this is their policy, they can use their money to pay for the expansion,” said Thayn.

Part of the increased spending will be used to fund the expansion of on-call hours in the department. The increase would enable the department to be available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, instead of during normal business hour as is now the case. The expanded hours, says the department, are necessary because the Medicaid eligibility system will be available online.

In future years, the match to operate the system will be reduced from the current 90/10 split to a 75/25 split, which means an additional 15 percent cost to the state general fund beginning in fiscal year 2015.

Sen. Steve Vick commented, “I wonder when is the time to say the irresponsible spending that they do in Washington, D.C., how much of that can they force on us. It shows we’re not really that much of an independent legislative body, we’re just an administrative branch of the federal government.”

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