Group seeks to add Medicaid expansion to November ballot

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(File photo by MARY MALONE) The Reclaim Idaho team is hosting a series of events this weekend for their "Medicaid for Idaho" campaign in an effort to gain petition signatures to put Medicaid Expansion on the November 2018 ballot.

SANDPOINT — Reclaim Idaho's green, 1977 Dodge "Medicaid Mobile" rolled through town in July as Luke Mayville and Garrett Strizich began their statewide journey to bring awareness to Idaho's health care coverage gap.

This weekend, Strizich and Mayville, Reclaim Idaho's co-founders, will be back in town to promote Reclaim's "Medicaid for Idaho" campaign — an effort to put Medicaid Expansion on the November 2018 ballot.

"For nearly four years, our state legislators have refused to expand Medicaid," Mayville said. "This means that during each of those years, we paid federal taxes that went to the Medicaid programs of other states while our legislators failed to bring our tax dollars back into Idaho. That's about $600 million per year that our legislators failed to secure, and that's money that could have saved rural hospitals from closure all across the state, created 14,000 new jobs, and extended healthcare to the 78,000 Idahoans who desperately need it."

Medicaid is a federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children. A state determines eligibility and which health services are covered, and the federal government reimburses a percentage of the state's expenditures. Idaho's eligibility requirements are listed online at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.

Maine recently became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative, and Mayville and the Reclaim Idaho team hope Idaho will be next.

"Our goal is to give Idaho voters a choice to do what our legislators have failed to do — extend quality, affordable healthcare to Idaho's working families," Mayville said.

Mayville, Yale graduate, author and postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, is a 2003 Sandpoint High School graduate, who credits his success to the education he received in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. In March, Mayville learned through Strizich that the $17 million supplemental levy, which covers one-third of all operations in the district, had a chance of failing. So, he flew home to Sandpoint and organized a door-to-door campaign to advocate for the levy, and about 60 volunteers joined him in his effort.

Following that campaign and the passing of the levy, Mayville and Strizich decided to start a new campaign — Reclaim Idaho.

The Reclaim Idaho team will host a "day of petition signature gathering" from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 at Sandpoint Community Hall, 204 S. First Ave.

In addition, the team will have a table set up with information and petitions to sign from 4-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at Pend Oreille Winery, 301 Cedar St. Music that night will be Sadie Sicilia with Desiree Bernhard.

On Saturday evening from 5-8 p.m. at Idaho Pour Authority, 203 Cedar St., the public can learn about Medicaid for Idaho and sign a petition to get it on the ballot, hear music by John Firshi, enjoy complimentary appetizers, and have a chance to win raffle prizes.

On Sunday, the crew will host a "bring a friend" event from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Hope Cafe, 620 Wellington Pl. Folks are asked to bring a friend to learn about Medicaid for Idaho, sign the petition and meet the co-founders. There will be music at this event as well.

Information: reclaimidaho.org

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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