Idaho officials submit Medicaid expansion waiver regarding family planning processes

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-25 00:16:24-04

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho state officials have submitted a Medicaid expansion waiver which, if passed, would require patients to obtain a referral from a primary care doctor before visiting a specialist for family planning services.

That means those insured by Medicaid would no longer be able to simply go to the gynecologist for their birth control pills, pregnancy care and abortions. The waiver would require you to see your family care doctor, first, for all of that. That is something that is not required currently.

This waiver is causing some controversy between state leaders.

“If a person wants to get contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies, I have no idea why we would want to make it as difficult as possible for them to do so,” said Rep. Ilana Rubel, (D) Boise.

This is a topic Representative Ilana Rubel has been passionate about since the 2019 Legislative Session when other state leaders pitched the idea for the family planning waiver, following the passing of Medicaid expansion.

According to the waiver, the goal for these changes is to improve healthcare access, care coordination and overall health outcomes, Representative Rubel believes it would do anything but improve overall health, and they aren’t the only ones against this waiver; according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, out of the total number of comments from Idahoans on the waiver, 383 people were against the waiver and 7 people were in favor of it.

Of those in favor of the waiver is Representative Megan Blanksma, who spoke out in favor of this waiver during the last legislative session. Blanksma believes the reasoning behind the waiver has been misconstrued.

"The whole idea of the family planning waiver is so that the doctor coordinates all that patient care," said Rep. Megan Blanksma, (R) Idaho.

Her argument is that the family doctor is looking at the entire health of the patient, versus a specialist who may just look at one health aspect.

"So really, it should streamline the process for the patient, and we're hopeful that we can find some cost savings for Idaho taxpayers that are footing the bill," said Blanksma.

Then, if a patient needs further treatment by a specialist, Blanksma says they should be able to easily obtain a referral to an OB/GYN from that family doctor.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare should know in the next few weeks whether the application is complete, then they’ll open a 30-day public comment period at the federal level and go from there.