NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Idaho overwhelmingly votes to expand Medicaid; Proposition #2 Yes vote tops 60%!

Voters in Idaho are giving a big thumbs up to a ballot measure to expand Medicaid across the Gem State to cover low income adults and people without children.

With 747 of 959 precincts reporting, the bipartisan coalition sponsoring Proposition #2 had the support of 61.4% of Idahoans, with only 38.6% opposed.

The Gem State’s Republican dominated Legislature has for years stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid on ideological grounds, despite pleas to do so from the state’s medical and health services community. So a group of Democrats and reasonable Republicans teamed up to take their case directly to the people.

And they found a very responsive electorate.

As the early results came in favoring expansion, Toni Lawson of the Idaho Hospital Association said, “It’s been a long time coming now.”

Medicaid was on the ballot in a few other states Tuesday night, but Idaho’s situation is unique, she noted. Idaho already has a tax-funded system to pay for catastrophic health care on behalf of poor Idahoans and could use that money instead to pay for Medicaid.

“The funding is there, we just need to allocate it in the appropriate manner,” she said.

Rural hospitals say Medicaid expansion would help them survive, as their peers around the country have been forced to close.

Incoming Idaho Governor Brad Little did not take a position on Proposition #2, but has said he will implement Medicaid expansion were the measure to pass (and it has). Outgoing Republican Governor Butch Otter, meanwhile, gave Proposition #2 an enthusiastic endorsement and urged a yes vote on the measure.

Idaho’s Legislature still has to appropriate the money to ensure that Medicaid expansion happens. But given the overwhelming passage of Proposition #2 and Governor-elect Little’s pledge to implement the will of the voters, it’s reasonable to assume that it won’t be much longer before access to healthcare gets better for many of Idaho’s least affluent residents. That’s a huge win.

Months ago, we took a position in strong support of Idaho Proposition #2. We’re absolutely delighted to see it passing by such a large margin.

We’ve always believed here at NPI that progress is possible even in the reddest of places. Even conservative voters have the capability to reason using the logic of progressive values. We simply have to give them opportunities to choose a progressive path. We are thankful that so many in Idaho saw the wisdom of expanding Medicaid and taking better care of one another. Not only is it the just and moral thing to do, but it is also the fiscally responsible thing to do.

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