Idaho Can’t afford work requirements

Some legislators are insisting that Medicaid expansion—enacted by 60.6 percent of the Idaho electorate—should be modified to include “work requirements.”

The evidence tells us that work requirements have failed wherever they’ve been tried. Consider recent news from Arkansas: Rather than fulfilling their promise to make people more productive, work requirements resulted in nearly 17,000 people losing coverage.

But there’s a more important reality for legislators to understand about work requirements: Idaho can’t afford them.

Kaiser Health News has estimated that Kentucky’s work requirements will cost $187 million in the first six months alone. In Idaho, a smaller state by population, costs would be less but still exorbitant.

Why? First, Idaho would have to spend millions to build a new layer of bureaucracy tasked with monitoring the lives of Medicaid recipients.

Second, evidence from other states suggests that work requirements could leave 10,000 or more Idahoans uninsured. This means that taxpayers would foot the bill for the emergency care of thousands of uninsured Idahoans.

One of the great benefits of a simple, unmodified Medicaid expansion is that it allows Idaho to scale down its wasteful system of emergency care for the uninsured. The nonpartisan Milliman Report has estimated these savings at $40 million per year.

If we leave thousands uninsured, we lose millions in savings.

Combine the cost of emergency care with the costs of constructing a heavy-handed bureaucracy, and the total bill for work requirements adds up to millions—and perhaps tens of millions—per year. Where would that money come from? Last week at the capitol, a meeting of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee revealed that Gov. Brad Little did not set aside money in his proposed budget for work requirements. The meeting also revealed that the federal government is not likely to foot the bill.

This means that the only way to fund work requirements would be to raid the state general fund. Legislators are left with a choice to make: In a tight budget year, will they sideline priorities such as infrastructure and education in order to fund an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy?

Strangely, some continue to insist that “work requirements” would make Medicaid expansion more fiscally responsible. The truth is that Medicaid expansion without modifications—the law that 60.6 percent of the voters enacted—is the most fiscally conservative option. The start-up cost of Medicaid expansion will be just $10.8 million. As recently pointed out by Lauren Necochea, Director of the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, this amounts to just one quarter of one percent of the overall state budget.

Furthermore, Little has said that this funding can be easily secured by tapping the Millennium Fund, Idaho’s tobacco-settlement endowment. The Millennium Fund option gives legislators an opportunity to implement Medicaid expansion while leaving the state general fund untouched.

We needn’t worry about the cost of expansion. Instead, we should worry about the cost of a heavy-handed bureaucracy combined with the emergency costs of thousands of uninsured Idahoans. Simply put, Idaho can’t afford work requirements.

Luke Mayville is a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the organization that launched the petition drive to expand Medicaid in Idaho.

Indivisible on Offense

This time two years ago, we were lost, angry, and scared. Donald Trump was on the verge of taking power, and we all knew that no one in Washington was prepared to stand up to him. In that moment, we began the original Indivisible Guide with these lines:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the Members of Congress who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist – and we have the power to win.

Looking back, we think this holds up pretty well.

In 2017, we made Congress listen. Indivisibles went to town halls, die-ins, and district offices. We defeated TrumpCare, rallied for immigrants, and turned the Republican tax cut for the rich and corporations into an enormous political liability. We stiffened Democratic spines and weakened Republican resolve. We couldn’t stop everything — but we did stop a lot.

In 2018, we remade Congress. Indivisibles endorsed candidates, registered voters, phone-banked, and knocked doors. We dragged our friends, family, and strangers to the polls. Drop by drop, we built the blue wave. As a result, this Congress will feature a new generation of bold, diverse leaders, and dozens of Trump-supporting Republicans are out of a job. To be sure, the new political reality is complex, and we didn’t get everything we fought for. But we know our next steps, and we’re not giving up.

This Guide is for what comes next. The 2016 Indivisible Guide was about using constituent power to defend our values, our neighbors, and our democracy. This Guide is about using our constituent power to go on offense.

Offense is exciting, but it’s more complex than defense. We have the opportunity to use congressional oversight to hold Trump and his cronies accountable. We can set the legislative agenda with a bold progressive vision rooted in inclusion, fairness, and justice. But none of this is automatic — we have to demand it of Congress.

Two years ago, we wrote the Indivisible Guide because we knew that everything we hold dear was under threat. We believed the only chance this country had was for us to come together and mount a powerful nationwide grassroots resistance — one grounded in a fierce commitment to defend progressive values. To stand up for our democracy, and for one another.

We’ve lost a lot since then, but we — along with critical partners — have accomplished so much to take hope from. We resisted. We retook power. And now, with control of the House of Representatives, we will stand indivisible to remake this country. The following pages offer a road map for the next two years of our journey. Together, we will pave the way to the post-Trump era. Together, we will win.

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Indivisible on Offense: A Practical Guide to the New, Democratic House by Indivisible Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Idaho, other states release food stamps early amid shutdown

Idaho, other states release food stamps early amid shutdown

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho has joined a growing number of states issuing February’s allotments of food stamps early because of the federal government shutdown.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced on Wednesday that people receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive their February food stamps on Jan. 20. The department also cautioned people to budget carefully, reminding recipients that the stamps will have to last them until benefits for March are issued.

That was a more optimistic statement than some other states released: Tennessee’s Department of Human Services warned recipients that after February’s disbursement they won’t get another benefit payment until further notice, and California officials cautioned that unless the federal shutdown is resolved benefits for March may not be available