Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director
As part of the Close the Gap Coalition in Idaho, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has been working hard to support the Healthy Idaho Plan, which would expand health care access to the 78,000 Idahoans who currently cannot afford health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicaid. The Healthy Idaho Plan comes from a recommendation from the 2014 Governor’s Task Force, which examined ways to improve health care access and analyzed cost efficiencies.
Senate Bill 1205, introduced by Senator Schmidt, was heard in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. This legislation introduced the Healthy Idaho Plan to the committee as the comprehensive solution that is most effective for providing adequate levels of care, as well as most efficient in use of state and federal funding. The committee room was overflowing, and too additional rooms were opened to provide opportunity for those not in the room to listen to committee testimony. Most of the crowd showed support of SB 1205, and in the hour of committee testimony -- only one organization stood in opposition to the Legislation. Representatives from counties, doctors, hospitals, and other health care organizations were all in favor of seeing the Healthy Idaho Plan moved forward. Even a few tragic and personal stories were told, highlighting the need, and the devastation that comes without health insurance.
Despite the overwhelming support, the committee considered this an informational hearing, and did not make any motions or take any votes on the legislation. We continue to work with the Close the Gap Coalition to urge legislators to support health care coverage through the Healthy Idaho Plan in SB 1205. We know how important health insurance is to those with cardiovascular disease, or recovering from a stroke, and the many other Idahoans with chronic disease and other medical challenges.
At the close of the hearing, Sen. Schmidt stated, “I’m not sure you should be making public policy choices based on tragedy. You should be making public policy choices based on good policy. Tragedies do happen. And if we can make good policy to prevent them, that’s our job.”
We believe the Healthy Idaho Plan in SB 1205 is good policy, and we ask you to contact your legislators to support health care for all Idahoans.