Coverage Gap: Physicians and Medical Students Speak Out

Physicians Call for a Plan, Not a Delay

New ACA Repeal Plan Gives State Legislators an Opportunity, and a Choice

Boise, ID – For years, Idaho legislators have struggled unsuccessfully to address Idaho’s healthcare coverage gap. Earlier this week, Congressional Republicans released a plan called the “American Health Care Act of 2017” that gives state lawmakers a probable road map and offers legislators an opportunity, and a choice.

Dressed in white, supporters of closing the healthcare coverage gap gathered to show support for Idaho physicians who highlighted our state’s successful healthcare exchange, described experiences working with uninsured patients, and called on state lawmakers to consider all options, and act in 2017 to finally close the gap.

“I would first like to thank our legislators for the work they have done to address healthcare coverage for Idahoans. In 2014, legislators created the state insurance marketplace and Idaho now has the 2nd highest enrollment in the country. Legislators changed policy, reduced the cost of our county and state indigent programs, and improved our residents’ lives by helping them access healthcare. However, the reality is that there are still too many Idahoans living in the coverage gap”, said Magni Hamso, MD MPH, Internal Medicine Physician at Terry Reilly Health Services.

Idaho legislators are considering partial approaches to address the coverage gap, but current proposals would not solve the problem and 78,000 Idahoans would continue to go without access to important health care services.

Matthew Peters agreed, “As a fourth year medical student from Idaho, I regularly care for Idahoans in the gap who are working hard and struggling to live on minimum wage. They motivate me to advocate for access to affordable, effective healthcare for all.  As a future family physician, I intend to do all I can to help level the playing field one patient at a time, but individual efforts cannot solve this crisis. Our legislature still has the opportunity to close the gap and take care of the 78,000 who are uninsured”.

Without a full policy discussion and consideration of new potential options available through federal reform, Idaho will remain a non-expansion state and lose out to other states that have taken action to provide coverage for those in the gap.

“The policy landscape is changing, but what remains clear is that Idaho has a chance to leverage Medicaid funds to bring hard working Idahoans into coverage. Without a full discussion of Idaho’s options, we risk continuing to leave Idahoans behind and may miss opportunities that other states are taking advantage of”, said Billy Galligar, MD at Family Medicine Residency.

One of the most notable aspects of the Republican ACA repeal plan is the provision that allows states to continue Medicaid expansion and receive the 90% federal match until December 31, 2019. The population would then be limited to those in the program on 1/1/20, and anyone cycling off would not be allowed back in. However, Idaho would have the opportunity to decide whether the gap population would continue to get health coverage under the state’s regular match of 70% federal and 30% state after 2020.

Close the Gap Idaho is a network of over 200 organizations statewide working to ensure healthcare coverage to 78,000 Idahoans in the gap. The coalition called for state legislators to consider all policy options available, and to prepare and position Idaho successfully for federal healthcare reform.

Photo credit: Jesus Blanco
Pictured (L to R): Dr. Magni Hamso, Matthew Peters and Dr. Billy Galligar

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