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BOISE -- The House Health and Welfare Committee rejected a proposal to increase health care coverage for low-income Idahoans, putting the final nail in the coffin of Medicaid expansion hopes.

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, had promoted the bill as a way to help the state's poor, who are particularly vulnerable without coverage, as well as save hospitals and businesses millions.

He faced opposition from Gov. C.L. Butch Otter, who has already spoken out against the expansion of eligibility, as well as his Republican majority colleagues.

Lawmakers voted along party lines Wednesday, dooming the bill before it could make it to a full committee debate.

Detractors said it wasn't the right time to implement eligibility for the state's working poor.

Rusche said Idaho is missing an opportunity.

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