Idaho Medicaid expansion numbers continue to rise

June 12, 2020 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — About 80,000 Idaho residents through early June have signed up for Medicaid under the state’s voter-approved expanded coverage, state officials said Friday.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials said that the overall number of people signing up for Medicaid has also picked up as the economy has struggled with the coronavirus pandemic. About 345,000 residents, including those who signed up through the expansion, are now covered by Medicaid.

That compares to about 286,000 of Idaho’s 1.75 million residents who were covered by Medicaid in early September.

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Voters authorized Medicaid expansion in 2018 with an initiative that passed with 61% of the vote after years of inaction by state lawmakers.

Enrollment for Medicaid expansion started Nov. 1, with coverage beginning Jan. 1. The expansion provides Medicaid to people earning up to a maximum of 138% of the federal poverty level. That maximum is about $17,000 a year for one person and $35,500 for a family of four. Initial estimates had about 91,000 meeting requirements.

“Whether we reach that or not, we’ll see,” said Matt Wimmer, administrator for the Health Department’s Division of Medicaid. “I would expect that at some point we would, especially with the state of the economy.”

Republican Gov. Brad Little on March 25 issued a stay-at-home order for the state’s 1.75 million residents as the first cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Idaho and quickly spread. Idaho’s economy began shutting down with some 130,000 unemployment claims filed over the next eight weeks.

The Idaho Department of Labor hasn’t been able to keep up with the claims, and Little has acknowledged the state and federal government has failed in that area, leaving laid-off workers unable to pay bills.

Little on Thursday moved Idaho into the fourth and final stage of his plan to reopen Idaho during the pandemic, with all businesses able to open.

On a related front, lawmakers in 2019 attached four waivers to the voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Federal officials rejected as incomplete one having to do with allowing potential Medicaid expansion recipients to stay on the state’s health insurance exchange.

Another involves a work requirement, but federal officials have not made a decision on that.