Negotiations continue on "gap" coverage plan

Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 19:22:28-04

Monday dawned on the Statehouse without a plan written down to cover 78,000 Idahoans stuck in the gap. Over the weekend authors of a potential bill believed it needed more work.

"There were some technical things that need to be fixed and so the authors of those bills ask that they be pulled and that we see how things settle out," said House Speaker Scott Bedke.

Pulling the bill has sparked a new round of back-room negotiations and political maneuvering. The key is creating a plan that will pass.

There are two emerging proposals.

Plan A is conservative, taking $5 million to fund medical health centers, like Terry Reilly in Boise. It would also create an interim committee to study other options.

Plan B goes a step farther. It still takes the $5 million for minimal coverage but would also grant the option to collect federal waivers to cover more of the gap.

Bedke, R-Oakley, says the debate is in which direction to take.

"Is it too much of a stretch, should we take the sure thing, should we go this other way?” he said. “Well, then you have all 105 legislators throwing their two cents in and that's what you're seeing right now."

There's a bloc of Republicans who oppose any new program if it costs an extra penny. So the Majority may need to reach across the aisle, where there's fertile soil.

"As long as it covers the individuals that don't have coverage now and it is financially prudent I think we can see our way to support it," said Minority Leader Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston.

Looming over it all is the self-imposed timeline to wrap up the session this week. Achieving that goal seems to be a toss-up.

"It's stuck in the Republican caucus and Republican leadership and they appear unable to decide on a way to go forward," said Rusche.

"I'm a Magic Valley farmer so therefore I am optimistic,” said Bedke. “I believe we'll get something. If I were betting today I'd bet that we do something."

Lawmakers working on the bill say it is likely the session will have to remain open until at least Friday to wrap everything up.