BOISE - It's an issue that has plagued the state over the years: the health coverage gap. In last year's legislative session, lawmakers killed a Medicaid expansion bill.
Now, two Idaho doctors are debating the benefits of an expansion as well as other possible alternatives.
Dr. John Livingston is a retired U.S. Navy trauma surgeon, and at a forum hosted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the University of Idaho, he focused more on alternatives to expanding Medicaid.
His motto for the night was that Medicaid should cover Idaho's most vulnerable. That means children, pregnant women or those with chronic diseases and the disabled.
"Instead of trying to cover the 78,000, two-thirds of whom are young healthy people, we need to secure the care of the 20,000 people who are truly ill," said Livingston.
Dr. Kenneth Krell on the other hand, believes that the most straightforward way to take care of those who fall in the coverage gap is to expand Medicaid.
Krell is the Director of critical care at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, and he says he sees firsthand how the gap affects Idahoans.
"They are stuck out there without preventitive services, without primary care, without being able to get the care that they need before they hit a crisis," said Krell. "This is the number-one issue that this legislative session has to deal with and they have to confront it squarely."
Krell went on to say that Medicaid should be seen as a benefit for those in the gap that are employed and shouldn't be seen as a handout.
Fred Birnbaum, the vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says he hopes the conversations during the debate will add some substance to the dialogue regarding the health care issue - especially as the state gears up for another legislative session.
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