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PNS Daily Newscast - November 17, 2017 


The Keystone oil pipeline spills big time in South Dakota; a look at the GOP tax plan and it’s impact on the most vulnerable Americans; and renewed hope for Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters national monument.

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Could Potential Medicaid-Expansion Measure Help Rural Idaho?

Over the summer, Reclaim Idaho toured the state in a green camper to speak to communities about Medicaid expansion. (Luke Mayville/Reclaim Idaho)
Over the summer, Reclaim Idaho toured the state in a green camper to speak to communities about Medicaid expansion. (Luke Mayville/Reclaim Idaho)
October 30, 2017

BOISE, Idaho -- Advocates for the expansion of Medicaid in Idaho say it won't just be a boon for the 78,000 Idahoans who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap. It also could save rural hospitals.

Petitioners are likely to hear back from the secretary of state's office next month on whether they can start collecting signatures to put the initiative on the 2018 ballot. Luke Mayville is co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the group leading the effort to expand Medicaid. He said rural areas are struggling to keep their hospitals up and running.

"What Medicaid expansion has done in other states is made it far more likely that rural hospitals in danger of closure remain open,” Mayville said. "So arguably, the biggest gains from Medicaid expansion will be the rural communities."

He said Medicaid expansion also would support about 14,000 jobs, according to the Idaho governor's work group on the issue.

Legislative measures to address the Medicaid gap in the Gem State have failed in the past. Opponents of expansion say accepting federal dollars will lead to more regulatory burdens.

But if the state does choose to expand, up to 90 percent of the cost will be covered by the federal government. There are 31 other states that have expanded Medicaid. Mayville said if Idaho follows suit, $720 million would come to the state.

"We are actually already paying for those dollars in taxes,” he said. "What's happening right now is that Idaho taxpayer dollars are going to fund Medicaid programs in other states. What we're trying to do is bring that $720 million a year back into Idaho."

Initiative supporters need to get at least 48,000 signatures in 18 different districts to put the measure on the ballot. Reclaim Idaho toured the state last summer in a green camper van to speak to communities about the initiative.

Mayville said the support the group found on that tour has become the basis for the network they are building in preparation for signature-gathering.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID