Idaho Republicans push opposition to Medicaid expansion

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GOP delegates gather in a general session during the Idaho Republican convention in Pocatello, Idaho, on Friday, June 29, 2018. Delegates are debating changes to the party platform and resolutions that include opposing a ballot initiative seeking to expand Medicaid. (AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — GOP delegates on Friday called on the Idaho Republican Party to formally oppose a Medicaid expansion initiative expected to be on the November ballot.

A Republican delegate panel adopted a resolution outlining the opposition during the second day of the Idaho GOP convention in Pocatello. Just a handful of participants opposed the measure in a voice vote.

The resolution — which still needs to win approval from delegates during Saturday's general session— warns "the current Medicaid program is already cannibalizing dollars for schools and roads by growing at a faster rate than other major programs and expansion will further erode support for other critical spending needs."

Janice McGeachin, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor from Idaho Falls, sponsored the resolution.

"Bottom line, this is an expansion of the Affordable Care Act and the Idaho Republican Party has long opposed Obamacare," McGeachin said.

The same group then spiked a similar resolution that would have asked the GOP-dominant Legislature to find a state solution to address the estimated 62,000 Idahoans who don't qualify for a health care subsidy or Medicaid expansion. Instead, Republicans adopted a proposal urging the state to encourage private nonprofits to provide health care to those who may not be able to afford it.

"I'm a conservative but I'm also concerned," Ann Kossler said, a delegate from rural Lemhi County who voted against the party working against the Medicaid expansion effort. "I don't think we can look down on people who need help. I would encourage us to look at all options."

While resolutions are non-binding and don't care any weight, they offer insight into the pulse of political parties and provide clues into the top upcoming political battles that could be winding their way into the Statehouse.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, has previously said he would not fight to overturn Medicaid expansion if both he wins the November election and the initiative is successful.

Under former President Barack Obama's health care law, the U.S. government pays at least 90 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid while states pick up the rest. Idaho's GOP-dominated Legislature has long refused to consider expanding Medicaid, but has failed for years to address the state's indigent population who cannot afford or qualify for medical coverage.

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative are currently waiting to see if their effort will qualify for the Idaho ballot. Election officials have previously said the effort cleared the signature threshold but the state is now checking to make sure it meets other ballot initiative requirements, which isn't expected to be completed by mid-July.

A resolution asking the Idaho Republican Party to respect the will of the voters was quietly withdrawn without explanation before the meeting began.

Other top issues discussed during the committee meeting was a call to make city elections partisan to prevent Democrats from taking over local seats, as well as a call to change the Idaho Republican Party logo because the elephant used includes the color blue.

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