To avoid a conflict between water recharge and lowering health care costs — two issues forefront on lawmakers’ minds– that $30 million to fund the proposed Primary Care Access Program might not come from cigarette and tobacco taxes after all.
At an Idaho Chamber Alliance meeting on Monday, House Speaker Scott Bedke shared his thoughts on the funding mechanism for Gov. Otter’s proposed Primary Care Access Program.
“I’ve got a few problems with this,” Bedke told the chamber representatives from across the state.
Bedke, who spoke on a panel with Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, didn’t say he was against the PCAP proposal, but said he wants to find a different way to pay for it.
“It’s got to come from a source of money that’s not spoken for yet,” Bedke said.
Otter and Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong proposed using $30 million from cigarette and tobacco taxes to fund the proposed program, which would cover basic preventative care for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid but don’t make enough to receive subsidies through the state insurance exchange. Currently, cigarette and tobacco taxes are divvied between a few programs, including managed aquifer recharge efforts and the GARVEE debt fund.
Bedke said he would rather use the part of the Millennium Fund — Idaho’s pot of money from the tobacco settlement that was established in 2000 — and savings from the Catastrophic Health Care Fund, which pays for emergency indigent health care.
“We’re realizing savings because of the success of our state-managed health exchange, so the Catastrophic Health Fund is putting money back in the budget,” Bedke said.
Bedke pointed out that some House Republicans are already wary of PCAP proposal, and might balk at the idea of diverting cigarette and tobacco taxes to fund it. “If we use the Millennium Fund and the CAT dollars from this year, I think that is a lower hurdle,” Bedke said.
Bedke did say the state’s system of providing care to indigent patients needs to be fixed.
“We’re delivering healthcare to them but we’re doing it in an inefficient and expensive way,” Bedke said.
Bedke’s comments come the same day Otter requested more general fund money for aquifer recharge. Nate Brown of the Times-News has a breakdown of Otter’s request, plus reactions from water stakeholders.