After Rally, Idaho Medicaid Expansion Advocates Hand-Deliver Signed Petitions to Statehouse 

click to enlarge In all, volunteers with Idahoans for Healthcare collected approximately 70,000 signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the November ballot.

Harrison Berry

In all, volunteers with Idahoans for Healthcare collected approximately 70,000 signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the November ballot.

Dawn Snapp, the Idaho State Lead Ambassador for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, became interested in the Medicaid expansion efforts when her teenage son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said the Idaho Health Survey estimated her cost for insurance at $600 a month with an $11,000 out-of-pocket premium if she did not have coverage through her employer.

“Sometimes the less you make, the more you’re required to pay,” Snapp said. “The burden shouldn’t fall completely on Idahoans. Everyone needs health coverage and it shouldn’t depend on how much you make. If I didn’t have insurance, I would fall into the [Medicaid] gap.”

click to enlarge HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
On the morning of July 6, Snapp stood on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol for to rally with hundreds of other expansion supporters. People in the crowd waved signs made by Reclaim Idaho reading “Close the Gap” and “Vote Yes for Medicaid” while listening to speakers and celebrating a milestone for their campaign: delivering Medicaid expansion petitions containing 70,000 signatures from across the state to the office of Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

If the signatures are approved by Denney, Idahoans will have a chance to vote on expanding Medicaid on the November ballot.

Speaking from the podium on the Capitol steps and wearing a white lab coat, physician and past president of the Idaho Medical Association Dr. Bruce Beltzer said, "I'm glad [this coat] isn't black. ... It signifies commitment and compassion for patients, and that includes the 62,000 patients who are in 'the gap."

"The gap" refers to people whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private insurance. Expanding the program in Idaho has been floated in numerous legislative sessions, notably earlier this year, when a bill was stalled by the Republican majority.

click to enlarge - Dawn Snapp brought her dog, Rico Bonito, to the Medicaid expansion rally. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Dawn Snapp brought her dog, Rico Bonito, to the Medicaid expansion rally.
That struck a nerve with Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa), one of the few GOP backers of expanding the program. At the rally, Perry told Boise Weekly expanding Medicaid is a non-political issue: "It's a grass-roots issue. It's very specifically about people."

She said it was her constituents who caused her to break with her party on the topic.

"By the time [my constituents] talk to a legislator, they have nowhere to go," Perry said, adding that she felt helpless during the last legislative session.

To people on the fence about Medicaid expansion, she said, "When they contemplate the value of a life, I think they'll understand."

A dedicated group of volunteers was central to collecting the signatures in favor of voting on expansion. Reclaim Idaho spearheaded the effort with a shoe-leather and door-knocking approach, and organizer Emily Strizich, who recruited volunteers, said the public reacted favorably to the people who came to their doors looking for signatures.

"The whole goal was to meet people who had a lot of energy and wanted to take leadership," she said. "If somebody is volunteering their time, they're so much more invested."  
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