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Medicaid Work Requirement Bill To Go To Idaho House Floor

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Idaho Public Television
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An Idaho House committee voted this afternoon [Wednesday] to send a bill that would impose work requirements on recipients as part of Medicaid expansion to the full House for debate.

The vote came after five hours of public testimony and discussion.

Nampa Republican Representative John Vander Woude [wowda] says his bill charts a responsible rollout of the Medicaid expansion initiative approved by voters in November. His legislation is slightly different than a version this same committee considered, but voted not to act on, a few weeks ago. The bill has several provisions. The one drawing the most attention from supporters of expansion would require Medicaid recipients to work 20 hours a week, either paid or community service. They would have to report their hours monthly to the state as condition of continuing their medical benefits.

Medicaid expansion supporters say that would put an unnecessary burden on those who receive coverage. They say it would also create an expensive new layer of government.

Nearly all of those who testified today urged the committee to oppose the bill. Many were health professionals. They included Brian Whitlock, president of the Idaho Hospital Association.

“This bill changes the good intent of that ballot measure and I think, at the end of the day, you will find that it creates more bureaucracy, not less. It will cost more, not less. And it will do bad things to good people,” Whitlock said.

He urged the committee to hold the bill.

But this time, Republicans such as Republican Megan Blanksma rallied behind the legislation and voted to send it to the full House, without an endorsement.

“We need to have the opportunity to discuss it as a full body rather than just holding it in the House Health and Welfare Committee," Blanksma said. "I think there is also, although it wasn’t reflected in today’s hearing, a lot of us are from districts outside of the Boise metro area and we’ve also had a lot of communication with our citizens that are not as passionate to expand Medicaid in the way that Proposition 2 did.”

Proposition 2 received more than 60% support in the November election.

Supporters of the initiative have criticized the move to send the bill to the House floor, noting that move came on the same day that a Senate bill to make it more difficult to qualify initiatives for the Idaho ballot cleared a Senate committee today. A third bill, sponsored by Sen. Fred Martin, was introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee. It includes minimal restrictions and access to a voluntary work-training program. It will receive a full hearing in the near future.