Ada County Democrats endorse Medicaid ballot initiative

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democrats in Ada County have adopted a resolution urging all eligible voters to sign a ballot initiative seeking to expand Medicaid coverage.

"Furthermore, because of the moral and medical imperative and because of the urgency to end suffering, Ada County Democrats request the Chair of the Ada County Republican Party to join in bi-partisan support of the Medicaid Expansion Initiative Petition," the resolution stated.

The committee approved the resolution Wednesday, according to Chris Lavelle, chairman of the Ada County Democrats.

State Republican lawmakers have long refused to consider expanding Medicaid eligibility in Idaho. But they have also failed to come up with a solution to provide health coverage to the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who currently don't qualify for Medicaid or make too much for a subsidy.

The primary argument against expansion has been that accepting federal dollars only comes with regulatory burdens that do not help lower the growing costs of medical care.

Reclaim Idaho, who is leading the ballot initiative effort, has decided to bypass the Legislature. The group needs at least 48,000 signatures from registered voters to make the 2018 general election.

Reclaim Idaho based its proposal on former Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt's 2016 Medicaid expansion bill that failed in the Legislature last year. Schmidt has since been ousted from his legislative seat by a Republican who is against Medicaid expansion.

The battle over whether to expand Medicaid has traditionally taken place inside state legislatures since former President Barack Obama's health care reform law was enacted in 2010. But after years of opposition from Republican state lawmakers, activists are seeking a new approach. In total, 31 states have expanded their program.

Maine voters recently defied conservative opponents by becoming the first state to approve Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative, sparking hope to supporters in Idaho and other states seeking to pass similar measures.

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