The Medicaid waiting game is over. What happens now?

Voters — and legislators — didn’t have to wait long on the Idaho Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the court upheld Proposition Two, the Medicaid expansion initiative voters passed in November.

Rejecting the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s bid to overturn Prop Two, only seven days after hearing oral arguments, the court has charted a roadmap for the 2019 Legislature’s remaining two months in session (give or take).

(More reading: Here’s full coverage of Tuesday’s ruling from Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press, Melissa Davlin of “Idaho Reports” and Audrey Dutton of the Idaho Statesman.)

So, what happens now?

Obviously, the court ruling now clears a path for the Legislature to implement Medicaid expansion — and in that regard, it places the onus on the Legislature. The issue may more be a matter of what implementation looks like, and what effect it has on the state budget.

Gov. Brad Little has recommended a delayed rollout that would launch in January, and have no impact on the 2019-20 general fund. That plan would ease any pressure on other state budgets, at least for the first six months of Medicaid expansion.

It won’t take long to see if Medicaid expansion affects decisionmaking on other budgets, including education.

In only 12 days, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will meet to hammer out the K-12 budget bills. The other education budgets will follow. Little took a cautious approach to his budget recommendations, zeroing out a broad array of line items. JFAC has adopted a similar tone, especially as personal income tax collections continue to fall short of projections.

The 2019 Legislature has felt somewhat like a session in waiting, with the Medicaid issue in limbo. Late Tuesday afternoon, that wait came to an end.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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