Don Kemper Medicaid hearing

Don Kemper testifies against a proposed Medicaid work reporting requirement at a hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

The first public hearing has opened this afternoon on Idaho’s proposed waiver request to the federal government to add work reporting requirements to the state’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion. It’s in the Lincoln Auditorium at the state Capitol, but is not being live-streamed; instead, people who want to listen in may call (877) 820-7831, #301388; they also can participate on the phone.

Among those who have testified so far:

DONALD KEMPER of Boise said, “I’ve carefully read the proposed waiver, and I oppose it for two reasons. First, the waiver will limit needed health care services both for those people out of work, and for those people who are meeting requirements but failing to prove it to the state. Many would meet the requirement but find it too difficult.” He said the reporting requirements would especially affect Idaho’s seasonal workers in an array of industries. “These folks are needed in our economy, but their jobs change constantly,” he said, “and when they get sick or injured … they’ll fail to meet the requirements. This waiver, they’ll lose their Medicaid coverage as well, just when they need it the most.” Secondly, he said, the waiver “would add millions to the tax burden” of Idahoans for the cost of implementing it.

MACHELE HAMILTON of Nampa said, “This was presented to the Idaho voters as a way to provide health care for working Idahoans, hard-working Idahoans. How many times did we hear that used? … So the reason it was presented that way was to make it more palatable to the Idaho voters, and therefore it passed at 60 percent, because we thought, yes … they should have the right to health care because they’re hard-working. Then as the Legislature tried to enact the hard-working part of it, yes you need to have a job, you need to be participating, that type of a thing, it got hit by so much pushback that the entire thing is so watered down now.” Did you hear the list of exemptions?”

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It includes those younger than 19 or older than 59; those “physically or intellectually unable to work,” those caring for a dependent under age 18 or for someone with a serious medical condition, those already complying with work requirements under unemployment compensation, those applying for Social Security disability or participating in a drug addiction or alcohol treatment/rehabilitation program, and tribal members. “You could be doing anything at any time and still get your coverage,” Hamilton said. “So the hard-working part is .. going out the window.” She added, “I just don’t understand why if I have to work to provide insurance for low income people, why can’t they work to receive it?”

LINDSEY HIPPE, a pharmacist from Boise, said, “As a pharmacist, I directly observe on a daily basis how the complexity of health care in general affects patients. Navigating prescription coverage is difficult even as a trained medical professional, even as somebody who specializes in medicines and medication coverage. … Work reporting on top of dealing with health care issues will only cause further undue stress for patients and their families.” She asked, “Why would we want to increase the cost and administrative burden of Medicaid with no benefit to the people of Idaho?”

SAM SANDMIRE, with Reclaim Idaho, said the waiver is “not a work requirement but rather a paperwork penalty. When a similar restriction was imposed in other states, we saw disastrous results. In Arkansas, 18,000 lost their coverage … just because they failed to fill out the forms correctly.” She also noted that a federal judge already has overturned such requirements in three states. “There is no reason to believe they will do any differently in Idaho’s case,” she said

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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