Lawmaker urges 'realistic' debate on Medicaid expansion this session

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho lawmakers introduced a plan to eliminate the state- and county-backed program that pays indigent residents' medical costs, part of a strategy to keep discussion of Medicaid expansion alive.

Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher of Iona introduced his measure Thursday in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

He would dump the county indigent program and the state's Catastrophic Care Fund, whose combined costs have doubled to some $52 million annually over the last decade.

Loertscher's bill wouldn't take effect until 2016.

That'd give lawmakers time to expand eligibility guidelines for Medicaid to cover indigent individuals, to replace the county-state program.

So far, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says Idaho won't expand Medicaid.

But House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston hopes Loertscher's measure keeps talk of Medicaid expansion fresh on lawmakers' minds.