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BOISE -- Idaho lawmakers are gearing up to debate a plan to eliminate the state- and county-backed fund that pays indigent residents' medical costs.

Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher of Ione is slated to introduce his measure Thursday in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

He wants to dump the Catastrophic Care Fund, which has doubled to $52 million annually over the last decade.

Loertscher's bill wouldn't take effect for a couple years, giving lawmakers time, if they choose, to expand eligibility guidelines for Medicaid to cover indigent individuals.

So far, Gov. C.L. Butch Otter and Republican lawmakers are eschewing action on Medicaid.

But groups including the Idaho Association of Counties are counting on Loertscher's proposal to at least help put pressure on the Idaho Legislature to tackle the issue by next year.

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