OPINION: New coverage options give Idahoans access to health insurance

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There are new health coverage options in Idaho. The rules for Medicaid have changed and more Idahoans can now have access to health insurance. Even if youíve tried in the past, now you may qualify for Medicaid Ė itís time to try again. If you are a single adult earning below $1437 monthly, you may qualify and income eligibility will vary with household size. Enrollment is open now with coverage going into effect on January 1, 2020.

For years, Idahoans like me fell into the health coverage gap. We had no options for affordable health coverage even though we were working. Our incomes were simultaneously too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid and too low to qualify for tax credits to help purchase a health insurance plan. My full-time job is as a caregiver for my children, particularly my 13-year-old daughter who was born with disabilities, and my elderly parents who also have healthcare needs. My husband has been supporting our family working on computers, which didnít come with health insurance. Many families like mine across Idaho have been putting off accessing healthcare unless itís an emergency. This has caused chronic conditions to become catastrophic, medical bankruptcies, high-uncompensated care rates, and the health of our local communities to suffer.

On November 1, enrollment opened for Idahoans to apply for coverage. My husband and I applied, and starting in January, will have Medicaid for the first time ever. When you live without health coverage, youíre constantly questioning whether your health conditions are serious enough to warrant a doctorís visit. Just knowing I can go to the doctor, without waiting for an emergency, is a stress relief that is indescribable. A year and a half ago I had a mental health crisis from undiagnosed Bipolar disorder. Throughout the day Iím having to lift my daughter from her wheelchair and itís painful. My whole right side is affected by sciatic nerve pain, itís hard when it affects my life and caring for others. I now have hope to not be in pain anymore or at least less. Finally, Iíll be able to address these health conditions that have gone untreated for so long.

If youíre concerned about qualifying for Medicaid expansion because of proposed work reporting requirements, just know these havenít taken affect yet. These proposals are currently under federal review and would take six months or more to implement if approved. Even then, state advocates are working to ensure these proposals never become part of Medicaid expansion in Idaho.

Many who have never been able to qualify before will now have access to Medicaid. If youíre a caregiver, work in farming, retail, construction, childcare, landscaping, food service or other jobs that donít offer health insurance, you may now qualify for Medicaid coverage Idaho. Medicaid provides a comprehensive set of services and covers preventive care, doctor visits, prescriptions, hospitalizations, mental health care and more. You can enroll at any time during the year going forward. Visit medicaidexpansion.idaho.gov to see if you qualify today.

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Jessica Rachels lives in Sandpoint with her husband and four children. After her daughter was born with disabilities caused by Cytomegalovirus (CMV) she has been working to raise awareness for other families.

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