The 2018 Legislative session started at a sprint, and we have not slowed down yet! We are watching, waiting, and working on so many policy goals to help improve the health of all Idahoans that we haven’t had a moment to slow down either!
hero_image_alt_text===Photo of Idaho State Capitol building
thumbnail_alt_text===Photo of Idaho State Capitol building
Here’s a quick update:
Pulse Oximetry Screening - Thank you for contacting the Department of Health and Welfare this fall in the rulemaking process for critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) screening. Thanks to your help pulse oximetry testing is now required for all newborn babies born in Idaho, making us the 48th state to require this important screening. Now all babies born in Idaho will be tested for heart defects, so if there is a problem it will be caught early, and medical treatment can start right away if needed.
Tobacco to 21 – A bill moving the legal sales age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, was heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee, but unfortunately was held in committee, meaning it will not see further action in this legislative session. The majority of testimony was in support of the legislation, however, a few legislators had issues with penalty language in the bill, and were unable to support it as we had anticipated. We are meeting with our coalition partners to discuss next steps on this issue including working it through city ordinances or continuing a statewide legislative path.
Access to Healthcare - We are continuing to work on healthcare access in Idaho, with two federal waiver authorization requests in legislation to be voted on the House floor in the coming days. These would allow the Department of Health and Welfare to apply for Federal waivers, changing health care access and coverage options for Idaho patients currently on Medicaid, those currently receiving subsidies on the Idaho health exchange (Your Health Idaho), and for those remaining in the gap.
This session Governor Otter issued an executive order that would allow insurance companies to offer “state based” insurance plans that would not cover the essential health benefits required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This could eliminate the protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, benefit caps, coverage limits, and other requirements under the ACA. We were not happy about the Execute Order but we are monitoring this issue and evaluating next steps.
Safe Routes to School - At the very end of the 2017 session, we were able to secure money for child and pedestrian safety projects as part of a larger transportation package. This money was to be used for communities who applied for Safe Routes to School grants. However, due to a drafting error in the Governor’s office, the money was never transferred to the department, and therefore, was not immediately available to the programs. It wasn’t until the first week of this legislative session that lawmakers found out about the issue, and had to correct the mistake. That required new legislation, which was subject to a good deal of legislative mischief but was finally signed by the Governor on February 16, 2018. This provides over $2 million in funding specifically for child and pedestrian safety, which helps provide opportunity for more kids to walk and bike to school, increasing the amount of physical activity kids take part in everyday and improving health for students across Idaho.
This year we were running legislation to make the Safe Routes to School program permanent, but we ran into a few stumbling blocks. We learned shortly after session began that we would not be given a hearing in the House Transportation Committee. This issue is too important for us to give up on, so despite hitting what at first felt like an insurmountable obstacle we took a moment to gather our thoughts and began looking for another path forward. We are currently in discussions to move this issue forward through Education Statutes and the Education Committees, working with the relatively new Office of School Safety and Security to incorporate our efforts under their guidance. Our legislation has been well received thus far, and we are hopeful that we can move forward in this new direction with success.
It has been a busy session so far, and a lot more work is left to be done with only a few weeks remaining. We appreciate your support throughout the session, and year-round for your work moving our policy goals forward and helping improve the health of all Idahoans.