'Ottercare' Gets Green Light for Public Hearing From Statehouse Panel 

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

An Idaho House panel agreed Thursday to advance Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Primary Care Access proposal, saying it should be the subject of a full committee hearing.

"This is a responsible Idaho solution," Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong told the House Health and Welfare Committee. "This is a plan to assist those Idahoans with incomes under 100 percent of the federal poverty level but are not eligible for Medicaid, an employer-sponsored health plan or coverage through the Affordable Care Act."

The plan—which has been referred to by detractors as "Ottercare"—would pay health care providers a $32 monthly fee for enrolled participants and would be funded entirely by state monies with no federal matching dollars. However, the funds would be limited to health assessments, basic lab costs and acute care for illnesses and injuries. Critics say it doesn't do nearly enough for the approximate 78,000 Idahoans caught in the so-called "Medicaid gap" and would not include funding for prescriptions, many X-rays or behavioral health services.

The House Health and Welfare Committee voted unanimously to assign a bill number to the proposal and schedule a public hearing.

Meanwhile, Moscow Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt has introduced two alternative proposals: one a full expansion of Idaho Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, and a second to expand Medicaid to the 100 percent federal poverty level. Both of Schmidt's proposals would be tied to the Affordable Care Act and would use matching federal dollars.

All three measure are expected to be the subject of separate public hearings in the coming weeks.
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