Hearing 3

Ceci Thunes, center, with the Idaho Behavioral Health Alliance, awaits her turn to testify at a public hearing Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, on proposed Medicaid work reporting requirements. All 34 people who testified opposed the proposal.

Thirty-four people testified at a public hearing Friday on Idaho’s proposal to impose monthly work reporting requirements on people who qualify for the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid — all unanimously opposing it. “It’s the job of the Legislature to implement the will of the people, not to thwart it,” said Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise. “These requirements are not what the people voted for when they enacted Medicaid expansion last November.”

The expanded Medicaid program will cover Idahoans who now fall into a coverage gap, because they earn too much to qualify for Idaho’s current limited Medicaid program, and, in most cases, not enough to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the state insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required).

Lawmakers resisted taking any action on whether or not to expand Medicaid for six years, giving up federal funding that started at 100 percent of the costs. Voters enacted the expansion by initiative in November, with 90 percent federal funding; it takes effect Jan. 1.

This year’s Legislature attached a series of restrictions to the voter-approved program, which require a series of waiver requests from federal rules. The Trump Administration already has rejected one waiver application, to give a portion of the newly eligible population the option of private insurance through the exchange.

Friday’s hearing, like an earlier one on Tuesday, focused on a requirement that recipients prove monthly that they’re working at least 20 hours a week or fall under specified exemptions, or lose their coverage. It’s among the most controversial conditions lawmakers attached to the program; similar work reporting requirements in Arkansas resulted in thousands of working people losing their coverage because they hadn’t met paperwork filing requirements. A federal judge has now voided the requirements in Arkansas and two other states.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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