BOISE, Idaho - On Saturday inside the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise's Northend, nearly 100 people including some state lawmakers showed up to volunteer and collect signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. The group called "Medicaid for Idaho" hopes to gather signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 different districts by the May 1st deadline.
Advocates have been trying for years to get the Idaho legislature to pass Medicaid expansion, but their efforts have always come up short. While all parties agree the Medicaid gap needs to be closed, just how to do it, has republicans and democrats at odds.
"At this point with the affordable health care act being the law and not being repealed," said Democrat Representative John Gannon of Boise. "The question is why not accept the five hundred million dollars in assistance in Washington and help people?"
The push to have voters, not lawmakers, decide the fate of Medicaid expansion comes as the Trump administration announced states can now require non-disabled adults in the program to work or pursue community engagement activities including going to school or volunteering. State leaders in Idaho haven't weighed in on the change in policy, while those hoping to expand the program in the Gem state says it redundant.
"It just adds bureaucracy and paperwork and other layers that people and states are going to have to sift through to qualify for a program that already exists," said Sam Sandmire with Reclaim Idaho and Medicaid for Idaho.
With an estimated 78,000 Idahoans in the Medicaid gap, Idaho Republican lawmakers hope to introduce a bill that will help close the gap through waivers, but organizers with Medicaid for Idaho say now is the time to expand the program.
"I'm overjoyed not only with the numbers but the enthusiasm of people who have come and wanted to help," said Sandmire.
A.J. Balukoff, a Democrat contender in the governor's race also spent part of his day volunteering at the event.