MSN Students Debate Medicaid Expansion in Idaho

Published on May 03, 2016.
The NNU Masters of Science in Nursing program is 100% online. To prevent the feelings of isolation that students can experience our goal is to connect students and keep them connected throughout the program. Moreover, we want to ensure that our online learning activities are relevant to actual nursing practice. The Health Policy and Health Systems class allows us to explore current issues that are important to the health and well-being of our community.

This past fall we decided to become involved in the debate on expanding Medicaid to include low-income Idaho residents. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), states have the option to expand Medicaid beyond the very poor. In Idaho, 78,000 people do not qualify for Medicaid nor for the federal subsidies allowing them to purchase their own health insurance. Expanded Medicaid would bridge this gap. Due to strong resistance to Obamacare, very few states led by Republican legislatures and governors have taken advantage of expanding Medicaid.

In class, students debated whether Idaho should expand Medicaid. When they reached group consensus, they created letters to the editor of the local newspapers. Imagine everyone’s delight when two of the letters were actually published. Not only did distance students work together to create a product, they were able to publicly direct attention to the excellent work NNU nursing students are doing. The following is one of the letters published in the Idaho Press Tribune.

Dear Editor,

We are writing in hopes to raise community awareness for the upcoming legislative session concerning Medicaid expansion. As nurses, we know the importance of affordable health insurance for all our deserving citizens and as hospital employees, we understand the impact of uncovered medical bills. The time to act is now!

Idaho is one of only 19 states that have not expanded affordable health care coverage. Over 70,000 hardworking Idahoans whose incomes are too low to afford insurance subsidies but too high to qualify for Medicaid are stuck in this coverage gap. In 2012, Governor Otter convened the Idaho Workgroup on Medicaid Expansion. Following months of data review, the local and national panel of experts reached consensus to “universally support” expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor. Many nurses are wondering, what is the holdup Governor?

It is time to look past your conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act and start focusing on the overall best economic interests of Idaho. While you have squandered valuable years not acting on your workgroup’s recommendations, voters are paying anywhere from $18-$22 million a year for indigent medical care, hospitals are reporting losses over $1.4 million dollars a year, and Idaho is losing its opportunity for federal funding estimated at $9.24 billion over the next 10 years. That’s an additional $13.41 in federal funds granted to our citizens for every $1 our state invests in Medicaid Expansion. These federal expansion dollars have the potential to generate 16,000 new jobs, which can account for $615 million over ten years in sales, property taxes and income taxes to the state.

Our citizen’s deserve equal opportunity to achieve great health. Our local hospitals can no longer afford to shoulder the burden of uninsured medical costs. The time to move forward is now.

—Nurse’s for Idaho Expansion

About the Department

The Department of Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University provides undergraduate, degree completion and graduate programs related to the professional field of nursing. We are nationally accredited and offer programs that can meet the needs of students in a wide variety of settings.