More than a dozen people have testified so far this morning on SB 1204a, the Senate’s amended Medicaid “sideboards” bill with work requirements, a family planning clause and more, all of them against the bill. Among them:

LORI BURELLE told the House Health & Welfare Committee, “In my case if I did not have a gynecologist I would be dead today. My very capable GP … was unable to diagnose the uterine cancer. … I have been cancer-free for five years because i had the freedom to visit my regular gynecologist without having special permission from my GP.”

REBECCA SCHROEDER said, “What we are seeing here is by my count the fifth attempt to restrict the law that the people passed.” She said the bill is “hastily thrown together, piled high with amendments. ... It’s confusing to everyone, I think legislators included. … This is not even close to what the people of Idaho voted for. ... This is not a good way to make healthcare policy and I would ask that you please vote no on 1204 as amended.”

CAROLINE MERRITT said, “Adding cost and growing bureaucracy as this bill does is contrary to the Idaho way. ... Medicaid was never designed to be a work program. Medicaid is a program to furnish medical care in the form of healthcare coverage to those in need. Its aim is to get and keep people healthy so they can return to work or continue to work.”

KATHY GARRETT said, “These bills create work requirements for able-bodied adults. Most of the people with mental illness in this group are able-bodied. I see no exemption for them from work if they are not able to do so. They do not fit the exemption for people who are ‘physically and intellectually unfit,’ your words, not mine.” She said people with mental illness have difficulty finding and keeping work, and need help. “Consider amending the word ‘unfit’ to ‘unable,’” Garrett said. “No Idahoan needing mental health services should be considered unfit.”

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FRED BIRNBAUM of the Idaho Freedom Foundation also spoke against the bill. “We are in favor of work requirements,” he said. “We are opposed to SB 1204 as amended just because of technical issues. … We don’t believe that SB 1204 is the best path forward.”

CHRISTINE PISANI said, “Keeping people healthy keeps people working.”

JAMES GIUFFRE, a member of the state Board of Health & Welfare who has worked with the Medicaid population for years, said, "The Legislature has made an assumption that people on Medicaid don't want to work. That is not true." Rather than a work requirement, he said, "They need opportunities."

STEPHANIE HANSEN said, “Let’s not forget the voters passed Medicaid expansion. I don’t understand why we’re all here continuing to re-debate the issue. We have already said this is what we want.”

MARK ANDERSON said, "Honestly, if my work quality looked like this, I'm not sure that I would still be employed. ... I personally have never met an Idahoan that didn't want to work that could." He said if lawmakers want a work bill, they should write one — not "pollute" a rare voter-passed initiative about health care.

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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