- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho lawmakers are eligible for the same health care benefits as full-time state employees even though they are considered part-time workers.

The Idaho Statesman (https://bit.ly/2ahGF7t ) reports that 90 out of Idaho’s 105 lawmakers are enrolled in the state’s health care plan. State law prohibits the public from accessing individual records, but records show that 30 of the 35 Senate members and 60 of the 70 House members are enrolled.

State law also blocks disclosure of the total number of lawmaker dependents also on state health plans.

The 14 percent opt-out rate inside the Legislature is higher than the state’s workforce, where just about 8 percent of employees don’t take the state-provided benefits.

Earlier this year, Sen. Dan Schmidt, a Democrat from Moscow, announced he would no longer accept state health care coverage until lawmakers found a way to provide health care coverage to the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The Republican-dominated Statehouse has repeatedly refused to consider expanding Medicaid coverage in Idaho, as provided under the Affordable Care Act. However, a new legislative working group is meeting over the summer to come up with a possible compromise to be considered during the 2017 legislative session.

“I am trying to get my colleagues to consider the importance of health-care access from a greater perspective,” Schmidt said. “One guy dropping out of the state pool doesn’t save the taxpayer a dime, but if we keep thinking like that we go bankrupt.”

According to Schmidt, he didn’t qualify for insurance on the state’s health insurance online marketplace because he declined to take advantage of available coverage offered by his employer, which means he’ll pay a tax penalty next year.

“I did it for a principle, and I’m going to stick with my principles at this point,” he said. “It’s a protest move, and I would hope it would make people think.”


Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com

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