Lawmakers hear from public about Medicaid...

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 19:42:13-05

The largest meeting room in the Statehouse was packed with people waiting to testify before lawmakers about concerns they have with the state's health and welfare systems.

Chief among their complaints was failed coverage for people who cannot afford healthcare and don't qualify for Medicaid assistance.

"These people who fall in the gap live lives of quiet desperation," said Sylvia Chariton of the American Association of University Women – Idaho.

Roughly 78,000 Idahoans fall in this gap. These people are often categorized in terms of income level, but today other groups stepped forward.

"It's very common for people to say that Medicaid covers poor children and people with disabilities as if people with disabilities all get Medicaid,” said Jim Baugh of Disability Rights Idaho. “It's simply not true."

Two such groups, Baugh said, are the disabled and people with mental illness.

"People with persistent and severe mental illness need specialty care,” he said. “They need rehabilitation community services. They need services that are not provided through a primary care approach."

Hearing from these specific groups is a good opportunity for lawmakers to understand the reality of the situation. That's the reason for these hearings -- to get informed and make better decisions.

It's part of an initiative from lawmakers to hear directly from the public they represent.

"Frankly when you make those kinds of policy decisions you need to hear from those who are living that life, that understand what a good decision will look like going forward," said Caldwell Rep. Brandon Hixon.