This Grassroots Group Could Expand Medicaid in Deep-Red Idaho
Reclaim Idaho, the organization working to gather signatures for a Medicaid-expansion referendum, now has enough to get it on the ballot in November.
In the process, they grassroots organization has potentially set up a showdown with Republican state lawmakers to enact the initiative into law.
The state requires 56,192 valid signatures, along with signatures from six percent of registered voters in 18 legislative districts, both of which the group said they had accomplished on Monday.
They won’t know the final fate of their efforts until this summer as county clerks in the state need to validate the signatures by June 30 and, from there, petitions will be submitted to the secretary of state’s office by July 6.
Emily Strizich, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, told The Daily Beast that they estimated that they had some 90,000 signatures total and that the group has talked to some 120,000 people around the state about Medicaid expansion.
At least one Republican gubernatorial candidate in the state, Rep. Raul Labrador, has opened the door to possibly overturning the initiative should he be elected and should it pass. Strizich said her organization is prepared for such a possibility.
“We do anticipate that there will be some opposition to this moving forward in the persuasion campaign,” Strizich said. “But what we have seen as we’ve been getting signatures is when you educate voters as to the issue, as to the financial repercussions and the positive impact that would have on Idaho's economy to expand the Medicaid program, set aside even the moral implications of providing people care when they need it, I think it’s a really popular idea.”
Strizich said that if the initiative made it to the November ballot, a simple majority of voters could pass it, helping to provide coverage for some 62,000 uninsured Idahoans.
A similar battle over Medicaid is playing out in more dramatic terms in Maine, where Republican Gov. Paul LePage has refused to expand Medicaid in the state despite 59 percent of voters voting in favor of doing so. On Monday, he was sued by supporters of the expansion to force his hand into doing so.
Asked about Labrador’s signaled interest in overturning a potentially passed measure, Strizich said “Could you imagine somebody going into a job interview and just telling the person interviewing them ‘I’m probably not going to do what you ask me.’ You got to give Labrador credit for being transparent.”
Reclaim Idaho’s first kickoff event to gather signatures, Strizich said, was just last December 19.