Traveling around in a bright green bus, "Reclaim Idaho" is collecting signatures with the hopes of letting voters, not the Idaho Legislature, decide the future on Medicaid expansion. The program would provide health care for the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who don't qualify for Medicaid or earn too much to receive subsidies. The federal government would pick up 90% of the tab.
"It's basically the people who need it most, and we are ignoring them by not expanding Medicaid," said Sam Sandmire of Reclaim Idaho.
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.
Reclaim Idaho is working on a petition drive to have voters decide during the November election. To get it on the ballot, they will need to gather signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 different districts by the May 1st deadline. That's roughly 56,000 signatures from across the state.
"Gathering this many signatures is a monumental task, and a lot of skeptics think we will fail," said Sandmire.
While the odds may be stacked against them, organizers believe there is enough support to have the people of Idaho close the Medicaid Gap.
"Every person that I have taken this petition to have enthusiastically said where do I sign, how can I help," said Sandmire.
To learn more about the groups work, click here.
Governor Otter's executive order to broaden health care options for Idahoans by establishing new state-regulated plans outside the Affordable Care Act does not address the Medicaid gap. Lieutenant Governor Brad Little says a bill that's set to be introduced in this year's legislative session plans to help close the gap through waivers.