Expanding Medicaid Supports Small Towns and Veterans

This year, Idahoans will vote on Proposition 2 to expand Medicaid to 62,000 Idahoans, many of whom depend on rural hospitals and medical providers to maintain their health. By voting YES, rural medical providers will be able to keep the doors open for their communities because more patients will be insured, and our small towns will benefit by attracting new people and businesses, leading to economic growth.

rural hospital closures
The map above compares rural hospital closures in Medicaid expansion states against closures in states that have not expanded Medicaid.

While no rural Idaho hospital has closed in the past eight years, the Chartis Center for Rural Health reports that seventeen of our hospitals are operating with negative margins. No business, including those in the medical industry, can experience continued negative operating margins and expect to stay open. Rural-area medical providers are hard to attract and retain because their patients are more likely to be low income, experience more chronic disease, and are disproportionately uninsured. It is, therefore, a challenge to attract providers to areas with these demographic realities. Expanding Medicaid goes a long way toward sustaining and growing our currently understaffed rural hospitals and medical clinics.

Supporting Medicaid expansion in Idaho makes economic sense and will be an economic boon to our state, particularly our rural areas. For years we’ve been paying federal taxes for this and not received a penny for it. Expansion would bring nearly $400 million back to Idaho to cover most of the costs, which will create tax revenue and thousands of jobs while reducing existing costs of less effective, reactive programs.

veterans in Idaho
Data from the Veterans Administration shows that approximately 27 percent of veterans live outside of major cities in Idaho.

Another reason I will vote Yes to Prop. 2 is that it will help our military veterans who live in poverty and either do not qualify for Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare benefits or live far away from a VA facility. Living in a rural area makes accessing VA care impractical due to transportation issues. Additionally, there are approximately 6.8% of Idaho veterans who made less than the median poverty level in 2017 according to the Census Bureau. The Idaho Voices for Children reports that 3800 veterans in Idaho are uninsured and that Idaho has one of the highest veterans uninsured rates in the country. We need to take steps to make it easier for veterans to access healthcare when they need it.

Study after study shows that Medicaid expansion makes economic sense, and I know it will help our rural hospitals maintain their ability to provide services to residents, including veterans, across Idaho. Our legislature has danced around the issue for many years, and Idaho residents continue to suffer needlessly.

Now we have the chance to speak for ourselves and tell our state’s leaders that it’s time to invest in Idaho’s people and vote YES on Proposition 2 on November 6th!

Standing with Victims of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault happens too often, and no part of society is exempt. Neither our state nor our military is the exception.

Misty Foundation Founder Erin Askew and Idaho Lieutenant Governor candidate Kristin Collum

As part of my commitment to veteran outreach, I recently met with Erin Askew, US Army veteran and founder of The Misty Foundation, which provides a bridge and resources for women who have served our country and experienced sexual trauma, whether they were Active Duty, National Guards, or Reservists. Erin is an injured veteran who knows there is limited support for female veterans who experienced sexual assault or domestic violence while on military duty. I was deeply troubled by the implications of Erin’s message but am in awe of her efforts to help these women.

nationwide sexual assault
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual violence in her lifetime.

Askew shares that, though the VA has several programs to address the needs of women, there is still a tremendous need for gender-specific programs, better screening, and increased awareness of trauma-informed care and the impact of domestic violence and military sexual trauma. While the statistics of reported assault is disturbing (
an estimated one in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
), we know countless assaults go unreported, which is truly haunting. Unreported incidents typically mean the victim went untreated and was likely in need of care, even as they left the military and started lives in the civilian sector.

idaho sexual assault
The Idaho State Police reports that only 15 percent of reported rapes are even filed in the criminal justice system.

There’s a common mantra within the military community that those in uniform are a slice of our population that represents the greater American demographic. Unfortunately, this rings true in the darker areas of our society as well, including sexual assault and domestic violence. In Idaho, reports of sexual and domestic violence vary by year and community, but a Statistical Analysis Center report sponsored by the Idaho State Police shows alarming data for incidents between 2009 and 2015. The report reveals that someone the victim knew committed the sex crime in 96% of cases. Even more troubling for victims is that only 24% of reported sex offenses between 2009 and 2015 resulted in an arrest, compared to 49% of other violent crimes. This suggests that the gap between incident and justice is significant. I believe whether a victim is a veteran or civilian, the true number is much, much higher, which means the need is great.

We must help. These people are, for the most part, our mothers, daughters, sisters, and, in too many cases, our veterans who, at one time, committed to giving their all for our country. Don’t you think they’ve given enough? It’s time for us to answer the call and be responsive to the needs of the violated and broken.

The Center for American Women and Politics reports that only 30 percent of Idaho’s legislators are women.

One important way to address this is by having more women in seats of power and more women’s voices in the rooms where decisions are made that impact us. Our communities, on average, are very nearly evenly split by gender, yet our representatives are overwhelmingly male.

I advocate balance in all things. I advocate for victims of sexual and domestic assault, and we need a fair and equal forum to begin an even-minded approach. Seriously consider all candidates, but remember: our government, like our military, needs to represent society—and our government and military need to step up and face the ugly reality of crimes against women.

Reach out to a victim of sexual assault, be a wingman, and be there for each other.

If you are or know a veteran or civilian victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, be a friend. Be a good citizen. Reach out and refer. Closing our eyes will not fix a problem we own. We must stand together or fall.

Veterans: Run for Something, Stand for Something

kristin collum and general james l. jones
Kristin Collum with Marine Corps General (Retired) Jim Jones – July 6, 2018

I recently had the pleasure of attending Hero’s Journey, a fundraiser in Hailey, ID for the non-profit organization, Higher Ground. Higher Ground helps heal and strengthen military veterans through recreation, therapy, and support. I went to this event as a friend and advocate of returning wounded warriors. I walked away with a greater sense of purpose as a veteran, a political candidate, and as an American.

I was deeply inspired by the words of keynote speaker Marine Corps General (retired) James L. Jones. General Jones served in the US Marine Corps for 40 years, including as Commandant (1999-2003) and Commander, US European Command/Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (2003-2006). The heart of his message was that we, as a nation, need more veterans to serve in political office. As he articulated the traits and values that military service brings to bear in public office, I grew ever more proud of my US Army veteran status and more committed than ever to winning my race so that I may serve Idaho as its Lieutenant Governor.

veterans serving in congress
Brookings Institution, “Vital Statistics on Congress,” January 9, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/vitalstats_ch1_full.pdf

Would it surprise you to learn that the current number of veterans in Congress has dropped below 100 for the first time in 70 years? In 1980, 60 of our 100 senators serving in the Senate were veterans. In 2018, that number is now only 21.

Why is this cause for concern? Because veterans understand selfless service. We understand and value the need for teamwork, what it means to work together for a higher cause and for long-term outcomes that benefit us all. We have personal perspective about the power and importance of national security and, to quote General Jones, “Veterans have a unique perspective on the sacrifices required to sustain freedom, the awful cost of war, and the fragility of peace.”

veterans serve your country

Hearing the General’s request that veterans run for office gave me, personally, a hero’s nod of support and validation. He said, “So, to our veterans, please consider running for elected office at all levels. The nation needs you more than ever; particularly when the threats and opportunities that will shape this century are so much more complex than in the last.”

I join General Jones in asking this of our veterans: please, consider serving again by running for leadership positions in your community, state, and nation. Help our governing bodies rise above partisan politics and divisiveness to refocus on the mission of service to our people and the long-term stability and healthiness of our communities. Our current political environment needs our commitment to serving with integrity and honor and our ability to pull together as a team to accomplish any mission. It’s about being purple, being a leader, and being willing and able to serve with the experience and worldview of a veteran that is needed at every level. No position is too small; every elected seat serves our country and our citizens in some capacity.

So I ask you, my Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard veteran (or National Guard/Reserve) brothers and sisters, are you willing to fight to preserve what you stood for when you proudly wore that uniform? Because now is the time we need your leadership. Join me and run for something. More importantly, join me and stand for something.