Fame & Infamy

Hey, Idaho made national news again.

This time no child came down with bubonic plague, no teacher fed a sick puppy to a turtle, and no one lured a gay man to his death.

No, this time 39 members of the legislature earned Idaho 400 words on Newsweek.com by voting down HB 98, a bill “to prevent forced or coerced marriages and the trafficking of children and to limit marriage to those with the legal and practical ability to protect themselves from abuse.”

Apparently, from 2000 to 2010 over 4,000 children married in Idaho, earning the state the highest child marriage rate of the 38 states that released data.

It didn’t help that Rep. Bryan Zollinger stated the government should have no place in licensing marriages.

All that was missing was haunting music from Deliverance. Though, to be fair, the article did say that only two states do have a minimum age for marriage.

“No” votes by Jarom Wagoner (District 10), Tammy Nichols (D 11), and Gary Collins (D12) all helped earn Canyon County this national notice. .

The good bills–e.g., extending time to report wage theft, giving judges leeway on drug sentencing, covering  PTSD care for first responders–don’t get such attention.

We’d have to pass something big to get national coverage, like add the words,  a minimum wage increase—or expanding Medicaid.

For six years Republican legislators failed to come up with an “Idaho way” to cover people in the health insurance gap. Now they feel pressed to graft an Idaho way on the law voters passed.

According to reporter Nathan Brown, the bill Rep.John Vander Woude is introducing has four main provisions: kill Medicaid expansion if Federal support falls below 90 percent and reevaluate the program in 2023, allow Medicaid funds to cover residential mental health treatment, ask the Feds to give those with incomes over the poverty level access to the subsidies through the ADA exchange, and add a work requirement.

The first is mostly swagger. Yes, it threatens the program and raises the possibility it’ll take another initiative to rescue expansion. But future legislatures aren’t bound by directives from 2019; they may do what they will.

The extension of coverage to residential treatment of the mentally ill is a good move. The state will pay less and patients will have more options.

Having the majority of new recipients receive ADA subsidies rather than Medicaid, is ingenuous. Not only would Idaho’s share of costs shrink from 10 percent to zero, Republicans could rest easy that people would contribute what their income allowed. Moreover, no one would price themselves out of the program as their income rose.

Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe the Feds will ever grant such a waiver. It seems a pipe dream designed that could postpone expanded coverage.

The work requirement, though, deserves research. Work is good, right?  But a late February release from the Kaiser Family Foundation says Arkansas–the only state with a work release waiver in operation–found that 98 percent of those qualifying for continued coverage were already meeting the work requirements of the SNAP program work. They’d created another bureaucracy and left 18,000 depending on indigent care.

In contrast, the Idaho Medical Association reports that a voluntary job promotion program in Montana made real gains in labor force participation.

Data on the two programs may explain why the Wyoming House voted 32-28 for work requirements one week and 39-20 against them the next.

A voluntary program can be put in place region by region as the funds are available.

Maybe that’s the real “Idaho way.”

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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