BOISE, Idaho - The public comment period is open on Idaho's application to the federal government to add work reporting requirements to its expanded Medicaid program.
State lawmakers passed a bill this year requiring that recipients age 19-59 work at least 20 hours a week to maintain Medicaid eligibility. But the waiver must first be approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Liz Woodruff is a coordinator with Close the Gap Idaho, a network of more than 300 health-care and service organizations. She called the work benchmarks "punitive red tape" that would mean fewer Idahoans have health coverage.
"Idaho would be one of the most restrictive programs in the country," Woodruff said. "It's a 'one-strike-you're-out' policy - so you miss your reporting for one month, you miss turning in your paperwork, and you lose your health coverage."
There are exemptions to the proposal, including parents of children under 18, people receiving disability insurance and caretakers. Supporters of the waiver are convinced it would encourage self-reliance among recipients.
The public comment period ends November 2.
Work requirements were struck down by federal judges in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire, and Woodruff said she expects Idaho's provision will also go to court if approved. She said the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reviewed more than 700 pages of comments on the proposal - many from detractors - in just four days.
"We were disappointed that there were technical points made about how the work requirements would be administered, the costs that might be incurred," she said. "The fact that Idaho is a large rural state, that would make it complicated for people to report. And, while they had a section in their new application that tried to ease our concerns over that, there were no actual changes made to the application itself."
The new application acknowledges that an estimated 16,000 Idahoans would be affected by the requirements. A federal decision on the proposal could take months or years.
Woodruff noted Medicaid expansion is going ahead as planned, with open enrollment starting Nov. 1 for coverage beginning in 2020.