DEBATE: Idaho to determine fate of Medicaid expansion

Stephen Weeg, healthcare advocate, and Fred Brimbaum, Idaho Freedom Foundation, debate during KID NewsRadio’s The Neal Larson Show on Thursday, October 25 | Sydney Jensen, KID NewsRadio

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Idahoans will decide the future of Medicaid expansion in Idaho on Tuesday, November 6.

Idaho is one of several states to decide what role Medicaid will play in the state on election day. Proponents of the measure say the expansion will help those who fall in the Medicaid coverage gap receive the necessary medical care many need.

Fred Birnbaum, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, told KID NewsRadio the current cost of Medicaid in Idaho is already expensive and adding more individuals to the system will only drive the price up, and potentially put those who really need coverage at risk.

“Current Medicaid is costing the state more and more, and to expand it to a largely able-bodied population is going to cause conflict between the people who need it, the poor, the disabled, and this other population, ” Birnbaum said. “What if we have another downturn? Back in 2011, they were having to take traditional Medicaid people and cut their services.”

Stephen Weeg, a healthcare advocate, said he believes it’s important to include the able-bodied population though. Some ailments, he said, don’t prevent people from working or functioning day to day like a typical illness would, but still need to see physicians.

“This state is always ranked about 49th or 50th in funding for mental health, substance abuse services,” Weeg said. “We have a lot of people who have depression, a lot of people who have anxiety disorders that impact their ability to hold a job, do very well.”

Watch the full debate below.

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