It's been six years since the Affordable Care Act passed, but some states still haven't gotten around to implementing Obamacare's Medicaid increase. Good news if you're a conservative politician, bad news if you're poor and sick.
The Idaho Statesman reports the director of critical care for one of Idaho's largest hospitals testified to the state legislature Tuesday that more than 1,000 people have died due to the state not expanding access to Medicaid.
One of the key elements of Obamacare is the expansion of the Medicaid program to provide free health insurance to families making less than $31,000 a year. The law required states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide this, but a 2012 Supreme Court decision ruled the federal government couldn't force states to comply. And Idaho has never complied.
But the state is thinking about it now, which is why Dr. Kenneth Krell of Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center testified this week before a state Senate committee to criticize Idaho's lack of healthcare options for low-income residents.
"How…in a state like Idaho where we care about each other, could I be seeing deaths and really damaging illness on a nearly daily basis as a result of failure to expand Medicaid that cost tangible lives? It’s difficult to understand," Krell said, according to the Statesman.
Krell cited a study by the New England Journal of Medicine to estimate how many people have died as a result of the Medicaid expansion not going through. The study found that 19.7 people died for every 100,000, and extrapolating that out to account for Idaho's population and three years gave him the 1,000 dead number.
MagicValley.com reported hundreds attended the Medicaid expansion hearings, with several other doctors testifying in support of filling the gap for an estimated 78,000 Idahoans without insurance.
The only one to testify against the expansion was Fred Birnbaum, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, who warned that if the federal government reduced funding to Medicaid, Idaho would be stuck with the bill.
“I don’t think we can assume that this is going to save the state money,” he said, according to MagicValley.com.
Despite the support, the committee decided it would not vote on two bills that would expand Medicaid, as it waits to see what happens with a competing healthcare initiative proposed by the governor. Waiting seems to be working great for everyone, so far.