Medicaid Rally

Hundreds rallied Monday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol, calling on lawmakers to implement the voter-approved Medicaid expansion without restrictions.

Rep. John Green, R-Post Falls, was right about one thing in his presentation to the House Health and Welfare Committee this week.

“Sometimes even government elected officials are not well-informed before they make decisions,” he said.

Green and Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, proved that point amply as they sought to convince the committee to introduce two pieces of legislation repealing Proposition 2.

Green presented a bill that would have automatically ended Medicaid expansion in three years. Though he characterized it as a mere “lifeline” that would allow lawmakers to do so at that time if projected savings didn’t materialize, a quick glance at the language of the bill shows it is an automatic repeal.

Does Green not know that the Legislature has the power to repeal whatever portion of state law it likes any year it likes? Of course, lawmakers would have to actively reverse the will of the people, rather than letting it happen passively, and then answer to voters. Perhaps that’s what he wants to avoid.

Young, who sought to introduce legislation immediately repealing Medicaid expansion, argued that voters had made their decision in ignorance. In the process, she revealed her own.

“We did not have a supermajority of voters that voted to increase their taxes by $412 million, according to Milliman, for one year,” she said.

True, voters didn’t support any such thing. Such a plan exists only in Young’s imagination.

If Young had looked one line below the $412 million figure in the study she quoted, she would have found that the feds will pick up $370 million of that, leaving $42 million. Subtract another $20 million in state government savings from expansion, and you get $22 million.

And Milliman doesn’t start counting projected declines in taxpayer liability for indigent hospital bills until 2022, a year after the period Young focused on. Milliman projects those savings at between $9 million and $12 million each year. That’s if the Legislature never eliminates the CAT Fund and county indigent funds, which would reduce the bill even further, possibly generating net savings to Idaho taxpayers.

Before Young impugns the wisdom and judgment of voters she should examine her own, and not only on budgetary matters.

Before she took office in January, her political work involved writing and giving speeches for the Freedom First Society, essentially a splinter group from the John Birch Society.

At a meeting in Blackfoot in April, which Young helped promote, participants spun outlandish theories, including that The Conspiracy (a term the Freedom First Society always capitalizes) forced President Ronald Reagan to pick a communist vice president.

So, in Young’s judgment, it evidently is sound to promote the idea that President George H.W. Bush was a communist — and to claim that Medicaid expansion will cost Idaho taxpayers $412 million.

Thankfully, the majority of the House Health and Welfare Committee has a sounder grasp on reality.

Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, a medical doctor who has perhaps the best understanding of health care policy in the Legislature, said in his judgment voters knew precisely what they were voting for.

He’s right, and they should have it.

Rep. Jarom Wagoner, R-Caldwell, said plainly: “If anyone bears the blame, it’s us.”

The Legislature’s inaction, he rightly reasoned, had called finally called forth action by the voters. And now their decision must be respected.

Anything less is an attack on the will of the people, and Green ended his pitch by doing just that. He said it was important to protect the minority who opposed expansion from the majority who supported it, and to let voters “learn from their mistakes for next time.”

“We are a constitutional republic, not a democracy,” he said.

The Idaho Constitution, in the same section that creates the Legislature, states: “The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature.”

When Green and Young attack the will of the people as they did this week, they attack the Constitution as well.

The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

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