Grassroots organization urges voters to say ‘yes’ to Prop 2

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Silver Valley resident Dawn Wiksten signs her name on the Reclaim Idaho bus in support of Prop 2. Prop 2 is proposed Medicaid expansion that could potentially help more than 60,000 Idahoans qualify for health care coverage. Photo by JOSH MCDONALD

KELLOGG — Idaho Proposition 2 is an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot to have the state amend Idaho’s plan to expand Medicaid eligibility to certain persons.

One of the groups championing this proposed expansion recently made a stop in the Silver Valley to get the word out.

Reclaim Idaho, a self-described grassroots organization that has been a proponent of Prop 2 and has played a large role in it gaining traction, held a community meeting at the Kellogg coffee shop The Bean to discuss how they believe the initiative is one of Idaho’s most important issues.

Passage of Prop 2 would expand Medicaid — the government program that provides medical insurance to groups of lower income people and individuals with disabilities.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid.

The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states and as of March 2018, 18 states (including Idaho) have chosen not to expand Medicaid.

Reclaim Idaho hopes to see that change on Election Day.

According to Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville, there are an estimated 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the “Medicaid gap,” meaning that they earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford insurance on the state health care exchange.

The group says that expanding Medicaid would extend health care to those 62,000.

Detractors from the initiative have utilized terms such as “socialized medicine” and believe that the passing of Prop 2 would lead to an increase in people abusing the system.

“Medicaid is a program that has been around since 1965 and has served us very well,” Mayville said. “All this is, is an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to serve more people. Calling it socialized medicine is nothing more than giving it a scary name.”

A report by the Idaho Workgroup on Medicaid Redesign, commissioned by Governor Butch Otter, predicts that Medicaid expansion would support more than 14,000 jobs and generate $46 million per year in new revenue.

Moreover, according to the group, Medicaid expansion would save millions for the state general fund by relieving the costs of state-funded indigent care services and eliminate unpaid medical debt.

Both candidates for Idaho governor, Paulette Jordan and Brad Little have supported Prop 2, but in different ways.

For Jordan, Prop 2 is an essential part of her campaign. Little has, in no specific words, maintained a mostly neutral stance, but would support the measure if Idaho’s voters passed it.

“This is a non partisan issue and we have supporters on both sides of the aisle,” Mayville said. “This a public policy, and not something that should be a political issue.”

The Reclaim Idaho movement is making its way throughout the state, holding small meetings in various towns as they make their push toward the next week’s election day.

More information on Prop 2, as well as some of the initiative’s backers, can be found at www.idahoansforhealthcare.org, and information on Reclaim Idaho can be found at www.reclaimidaho.org.

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