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Cutting Funding from the Poor to Pay for Medicaid (Guest: Fred Birnhaum)

August 19, 2019

Fred Birnbaum, Vice President of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, speaks on Idaho's scramble to find ways to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion — even if it means taking funds away from programs intended to help the poor.

Last year, the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) brought a lawsuit against Medicaid expansion in the state. The lawsuit alleged that the language in the expansion order made it uncomfortably likely that Idaho would have to find ways to pay for Medicaid expansion even if the federal government decided to pull its funding. In February, the court ruled that the expansion was legal, effectively ending IFF's legal challenge.

Now, some of what IFF predicted looks like it may be coming true as the state has been seeking input on state programs they can cut funding for in order to pay for the Medicaid expansion. Some of the programs being targeted include funding for Idahoans who fall into the "Medicaid Gap" — they make just enough not to qualify for Medicaid but find themselves burdened with expensive medical bills. A state program has been helping those citizens. This program could have its funding redirected to help pay for Idaho’s Medicaid expansion.

Fred Birnbaum joins the Health Care News podcast to discuss this development and why expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied adults, who were never the group Medicaid is supposed to help, has become problematic for the state of Idaho.

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Sarah Lee is a policy advisor for health care and a host of Heartland's Health Care News podcast.