MED­I­CAID BAT­TLE JOINED

The Idaho Statesman - - Front Page - BY AU­DREY DUT­TON adut­[email protected]­hostates­man.com Au­drey Dut­ton is a health care re­porter for the States­man. Con­tact Au­drey at (208) 377-6448 or adut­[email protected] states­man.com.

Some 3,000 doc­tors and two Idaho moms jump into the le­gal fight over the ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid in the state.

Two Idaho moms are jump­ing into the le­gal fray over Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. And they’re joined by Idaho’s doc­tors.

They filed a re­quest Thurs­day to in­ter­vene in a law­suit be­tween the Idaho Free­dom Foun­da­tion and the Idaho Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice. The law­suit is sched­uled for a hear­ing be­fore the Idaho Supreme Court in Jan­uary.

IFF is chal­leng­ing the le­gal­ity of the voter-ap­proved Propo­si­tion 2.

Deleena Foster, 32, is a stay-at-home mother of three in Po­catello. Her hus­band, Stu­art, is a roofer; his job doesn’t of­fer health in­sur­ance, the court fil­ing says.

Pamela Blessinger, 36, has two chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties. She lives in Boise and works for the Idaho Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare — but only part time so she can take care of the chil­dren, which means she doesn’t qual­ify for in­sur­ance. Her hus­band, Joshua, is a mil­i­tary vet­eran who can’t work due to mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and a ser­vicere­lated dis­abil­ity, the court fil­ing says.

Both fam­i­lies are be­low the poverty level, so they don’t qual­ify for Af­ford­able Care Act sub­si­dies to buy in­sur­ance on the state health ex­change.

They are joined in their re­quest by the Idaho Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents about 3,000 Idaho doc­tors, and Bruce Belzer, a fam­ily physi­cian in Boise who treats unin­sured pa­tients. Belzer also is trea­surer for the proex­pan­sion group Ida­hoans for Health­care.

Idaho vot­ers last month ap­proved the bal­lot ini­tia­tive Prop 2 with about 61 per­cent of the vote, ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid to cover low-in­come and child­less adults. The ex­pan­sion would add tens of thou­sands of Ida­hoans to the Med­i­caid pro­gram, with most of the costs cov­ered by fed­eral funds.

Soon af­ter the elec­tion, the Idaho Free­dom Foun­da­tion filed a law­suit to block ex­pan­sion. The group has been the most prom­i­nent op­po­nent of ex­pan­sion. It ar­gues that the bal­lot mea­sure was worded in a way that vi­o­lates the Idaho Con­sti­tu­tion — giv­ing too much con­trol to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and to a sin­gle state agency, the Idaho Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare.

Belzer, a co-owner of Pri­mary Health Med­i­cal Group, takes pa­tients re­gard­less of whether they have health in­sur­ance, the court fil­ing says. While not be­ing paid is a busi­ness chal­lenge, his unin­sured pa­tients have trou­ble get­ting spe­cial­ist care, di­ag­nos­tic test­ing, med­i­ca­tions and med­i­cal de­vices that PHMG doesn’t of­fer, the fil­ing says.

“The re­sult is that Dr. Belzer spends sig­nif­i­cantly more time, per pa­tient, on unin­sured pa­tients than on his in­sured pa­tients,” the fil­ing says. “This time is spent seek­ing and co­or­di­nat­ing char­i­ta­ble or dis­counted ser­vices, or look­ing for other ‘work­arounds,’ rather than ac­tu­ally pro­vid­ing health care ser­vices to the com­mu­nity.”

The Idaho Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion says its mem­bers give un­paid care to pa­tients who have no health in­sur­ance. If Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion is halted, they will con­tinue to go un­paid, the court fil­ing says.

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