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Conversation around Medicaid work requirements continues

Conversation around Medicaid work requirements continues
Posted at 4:11 PM, Sep 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-03 19:09:33-04

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare wants to hear from the public over Medicaid work reporting requirements. Today a public hearing was held to hear from those both in favor and against the controversial waiver.

The informal hearing specifically surrounds the waiver application, which would implement requirements for those hoping to participate in Medicaid expansion. If approved, the waiver would require them to prove they either work or volunteer 20 hours a week, are in a work training program 20 hrs a week or are students attending a post-secondary program at least part-time. Failure to either meet those requirements or submit their information would result in loss of coverage.

“All we’re trying to do is make people accountable for what the government is giving them and saying you should at least be participating in what you’re getting from the citizens of Idaho," stated canyon county citizen Machele Hamilton, who spoke in favor of the proposal.

“Medicaid expansion was sold as a product for working Idahoans, yet people who oppose the work requirements are making two conflicting claims, that people who get this are working, but they can’t verify that they are working," said Fred Birnbaum with the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Exemptions would be in place for people aged 19 to 59, as well as caregivers or people incapable of work due to various factors such as disability. Those who spoke up against the initiative say implementing this could cause a “second gap” since missing a single deadline could result in loss of coverage for thousands of Idahoans. Others also spoke up about the potential harms of work requirements more generally, including medicare recipients, leaders with Idaho Children's Trust Fund as well as medical doctors.

"Work does not create a healthy person; this waiver mandates that you have to work in order to have health coverage, but we all know in order to work first, you have to be healthy, you have to be able to get to work," stated Dr. Lesleigh Box, who spoke out against the proposal.

"The states that expanded Medicaid had reduced child neglect cases, and the cost of that is incredible when we know that 75% of all childhood maltreatment cases are child neglect cases, so that means we can save money really by putting in place a clean Medicaid program without work requirements that will reduce the number of people that actually benefit from it," stated the executive director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund Roger Sherman.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the exemptions in the waiver application include:

  • An individual is younger than 19 and or older than 59 years of age.
  • An individual is physically or intellectually unable to work (including individuals with mental health barriers).
  • An individual is pregnant, a parent, or caretaker providing for a dependent younger than 18 years of age or people with a severe medical condition.
  • An individual is applying for or receiving unemployment compensation and complying with related work requirements.
  • An individual is applying for Social Security disability benefits or is participating in a drug addiction or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation program.
  • An individual is an American Indian or Alaska Native and is eligible for services through the Indian Health Service or tribal health program.

To see the department's draft of the waiver, click here.

Public comment runs through September 22.