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Idaho panel: Expand Medicaid to cover more poor

Associated Press Modified: November 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm •  Published: November 9, 2012

But justices threw in a twist: Obama couldn't force states to expand their Medicaid programs' eligibility by threatening to withhold federal funding.

That's why Otter appointed this group: To weigh factors including cost, savings and how any decision would impact important principles like personal accountability before giving him guidance on what to do.

Idaho isn't alone in wrestling with the question.

Though most states are likely to go along with the expansion, leaders of some largely-conservative bastions have refused, including Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Some argue it's still too expensive — regardless of Washington, D.C.'s promise to pay for most of the new coverage.

The Idaho group's recommendation will go to Otter in coming weeks, said Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong. That will be in time for the Republican governor to prepare a proposal for the 2013 Idaho Legislature, where a majority of GOP lawmakers have been skeptical of adopting any part of Obama's overhaul.

"We don't do this independent of" lawmakers, Armstrong said.

In addition to Friday's recommendation to expand Medicaid, Otter is also wrestling with a separate one from another task force on how Idaho should craft an insurance exchange, the online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance that's also part of Obama's overhaul.

In late October, the panel told Otter to go with a nonprofit, state-based exchange, rather than having the federal government administer the program.

Otter can't dally: A week from Friday, Idaho and other states must notify Washington of their plans.

Otter will be in Las Vegas from Tuesday until Thursday next week to attend a Republican Governors Association meeting, but his spokesman Jon Hanian said it's on his mind.

"He has not made a decision yet, but he's very cognizant of the fact there's a Nov. 16 deadline looming," Hanian said.