Idaho Capitol dome

The dome of the Idaho Capitol.

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is seeking public comments on proposed work reporting requirements that lawmakers tied to the state’s Medicaid expansion, as part of a waiver application to the federal government.

Public comments are being accepted through Sept. 22; two public hearings will be held Sept. 3 and Sept. 6.

After Idaho voters last November approved expanding the state’s Medicaid program to adults who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, the Legislature attached a series of conditions to the expansion. 

The conditions include a requirement for all non-exempt recipients to prove monthly that they’ve been working at least 20 hours a week to qualify for the new medical coverage.

That requirement also could be satisfied through work training, volunteering or certain educational programs; required proof could include pay stubs, direct employer verification or certain other forms of direct proof. Anyone not providing proof of meeting the 20-hour requirement each month would lose coverage.

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Lawmakers exempted those recipients who are under 19 or older than 59; those who are “physically or intellectually unable to work”; those who are pregnant or caring for a child under 18 or someone with a serious medical condition; and several other groups.

“Many individuals in the expansion adult group will be exempt from the requirement or are already meeting the requirements,” the department said in a press release on Friday. However, spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr confirmed that even if people are working 20 hours a week, if they don’t submit sufficient monthly proof of that, they’d lose their coverage.

The work reporting requirements were among the most controversial conditions the Legislature added to the voter-approved expansion plan. Federal courts have blocked similar requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky; after they were implemented in Arkansas, more than 18,000 enrollees lost coverage for failure to meet reporting requirements.

Nevertheless, the Trump Administration has approved work reporting requirements for Medicaid expansion in more than a half-dozen other states. The issue may end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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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