The 2021 Idaho Legislative Session has started at breakneck speed this year, meeting in person, with minimal safety requirements for stopping the spread of Covid 19. This poses significant challenges, particularly as we look at the bills that have been introduced so far during the session, and the budget discussions we’re hearing.
Much of the legislation we’ve seen so far has been an effort to alter the balance of emergency powers, allowing the Governor very limited control, and allowing the Legislature to call itself back into session to make decisions during state declarations of emergency. We are also starting to see bills that would prevent individual cities and counties from dealing with local concerns and limiting their ability to use their budgets as the community sees fit. This is worrying as concentrating power at the Legislature this way could easily stop our ability to help communities at the local level pass ordinances such as creating a smoke free city, or working on pedestrian and bike paths for school children.
However, our biggest concern with the direction we’re seeing the Legislature move this year is with our Medicaid program in Idaho. We’ve already heard about potential cuts to services and benefits, and fear there will be further efforts to eliminate funding for these vital programs. We know the health crisis in Idaho is already a strain on families and our health care system. However, our Medicaid program is fully funded. The state has the largest surplus in state history, roughly $600 million, and we are receiving federal dollars directly for Medicaid through the public health emergency that has been declared through 2021. In the current environment, where we’ve seen the slow down in the economy, which has caused many to lose jobs and businesses, and Idaho families are struggling to get back on their feet, we still have the health challenges at the root of the economic downturn. This means, when Idahoans most desperately need health care because of a pandemic, and may lose jobs that provide that critical health care access, many Idahoans may lose their ability to access the program. This is short sighted and would be detrimental to communities across Idaho.
We ask you to reach out to your Legislators and the Governor, and urge them to fully fund Medicaid. To do anything else is irresponsible and could lead to terrible outcomes for our friends and neighbors. Please help us keep all Idahoans healthy and safe in this unprecedented time.
hero_image_alt_text===A picture of the Idaho Capitol building
thumbnail_alt_text===A picture of the Idaho Capitol building